Bend it Like Beckham was the surprise smash hit of the summer of 2002. And the small independent film deserved all the attention is received from audiences around the world. It's a film with just the right touch of spirit and humor, and let's face it, we all like to leave the theater with that feel good attitude.
And what's not to feel good about? Jess (Parminder Nagra) is a teen who has a chance to realize her dreams when Jules (Keira Knightley) offers her a spot on a women's fútból (soccer) team. Unfortunately, her stifling traditional Indian family doesn't want her to have anything to do with the sport. It's a woman's place to find a nice young man to settle down with, not run around playing sports. So what does she do? She lies to her parents so she can play without their knowledge.
Sure, the idea of a girl struggling between what she wants and what her parents want for her is nothing new. But Bend it Like Beckham breathes life into the tired storyline. Not only does it have the right amount of humor, it also has chemistry. The relationship between Jess and Jules is both real and lively. They share a spark that really enhances the story.
The main drama in this film centers around the wedding of Jess's sister, Pinkie (Archie Panjabi). It seems at every turn, Jess ruins the wedding plans because of her desire to play a "boy's" sport. The characters make it easy to empathize with Jess who must decide what's more important in her life, and she must deal with the consequences of her actions.
Unfortunately, some of the actions become a little repetitive by the end of the film: she plays and gets in trouble; she plays and gets in trouble; she plays and gets in trouble. I would've liked one or two fewer confrontations with her parents because it got a tad cumbersome by the end.
Also, some of the subplots feel tacked on and added simply for comedic effect or as a handy way to get the story from point A to point B. For example, Jess and Jules are mistaken as lovers more than once, and although these scenes are humorous, they actually undermine the credibility of some of the characters. I can handle Jess's struggle with her love for her coach, John (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), simply because the theme parallels her struggle with the game she loves. But other subplots could've easily been avoided.
Despite it's few problems, Bend it Like Beckham is a very entertaining coming of age story. But don't let the title (named after fútból star David Beckham and his ability to kick the ball in a arc around defenders) or the sport storyline scare you away. The fútból scenes, which are very well shot, only act as a narrative device and as a means to put action into the dialog-driven film. In other words, this is a very enjoyable film even for those who don't know anything about the sport.
Wow. For a small independent film, even one that made such a smash as the box office, this is one nice transfer. Fox Searchlight presents Bend it Like Beckham in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the image is very sharp. Colors are very vibrant, which is key to this film since there are splashes of green, red, or gold in nearly every scene. Flesh tones seem accurate and the blacks, although looking overly dark on occasion, look good as well.
The only negative aspect of this transfer is the dreaded halo effect. This enhancement issue is noticeable on most high contrast scenes. However, although they are easily spotted, I didn't really feel distracted by them. The detail and colors are good enough for me to (almost) completely overlook this flaw.
As the quality of the video transfer is a pleasant surprise, so too is the audio. Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the dialog is very crisp and centers on the actor speaking. Despite being a dialog-driven piece, the rears are used very well here and there throughout the film. Plus, there is great separation between the speakers, with appropriate sounds coming from the left or right channels. The music, another key to this picture, sounds great as well, with just enough low end to be noticeable.
French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 tracks are also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There's nothing here that isn't expected for this style of film, but luckily, there is very little fluff. The screen-specific commentary features director Gurinder Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges. They do offer some interesting tidbits, but for the most part, the commentary is a tad slow and not overly entertaining.
You also get a 15 minute cooking lesson called Who Wants to Cook Aloo Gobi? I'll admit, the food looks great, but I don't see myself making the dish anytime soon. This featurette is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Naturally, you also get the recipe for the dish.
Next is the featurette The Making of Bend it Like Beckham. I wouldn't consider this a marketing piece, exactly, it just feels like one. There are some good behind-the-scenes shots, and the interviews are pertinent and informative. The 10 deleted scenes prove that Chadha knew what she was doing in the editing booth, since none of them would have furthered the story in any way. Both of these features are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Perhaps the most entertaining of the extra features is the music video shown over the final credits and presented here in its entirety. If you wait for the video to end, you'll be rewarded with David Beckham and wife Posh look-a-likes trying to perform for the camera. Watching Beckham's expression (or lack there of) while singing "Hot Hot Hot" nearly had me in tears, both out of laughter and pity. If you watch this DVD, you owe it to yourself to watch this segment.
You also get two international trailers for the film, another trailer for Antwone Fisher, and a music promo.
The Bend it Like Beckham disc has nice anamorphic, animated menus that feature music and clips from the film. For those who have never seen the film before, some of the clips give away elements of the movie. I wouldn't call them spoilers, exactly, but they might ruin a surprise or two.
Bend it Like Beckham is one of those rare movies that deserves the box office success it earned last summer. This quality DVD will most likely give it even more exposure. At around $25, I highly recommend this DVD for fans of the film and anyone who might be interested in the subject matter.