Bend It Like Beckham
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     This is definitely the first feel-good movie of the year.  Bend It Like Beckham is Billy Eliot crossed with Monsoon Wedding. Jess, an English high school girl (Parminder K. Nagra), growing up in a traditional Sikh family, wants to play soccer rather than to learn cooking and look for a husband.  She is discovered playing in the park by a fellow soccer player, Jules (Keira Knightley), who also faces opposition at home from her mother (Juliet Stevenson).  The two girls begin playing for a local soccer team coached by a dreamy Irishman (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers).  Needless to say, both girls fall in love with their dreamy coach.  Chaos ensues as Jess tries to play soccer without her parents finding out even as they prepare for her sister's wedding.  The title of the movie refers to David Beckham, captain of Manchester United and husband of Posh Spice, and his uncanny ability to curve a soccer ball into the net.
     The plot of Bend It Like Beckham follows the traditional storyline in the genre of a young person following his or her dream despite the opposition of everyone around them. Even though this makes it very predictable,  Bend It Like Beckham is a joy to watch and should be seen by young girls everywhere. Most of the credit is due to the lead, Nagra, supported by the rest of the cast who are uniformly good.  Nagra makes her character completely believable even though she is surrounded by a slightly cartoonish family.  Knightly and Rhys-Meyers are also great.  Here's a nice bit of trivia.  Although it was not revealed until later, Knightly, not Natalie Portman,  played the role of the decoy queen in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.  The only well-known actor in Bend It Like Beckham, is Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly Deeply, The Double Helix).  She shows here that she can make even a one-dimensional character interesting.
It's not clear what it is that makes some movies great and other movies not, but whatever it is, Bend It Like Beckham has it.  This movie cruises unerringly along the edge of cliche without falling over.  I know I can be a sucker for these heart-warming stories but what the hell, go for it. You won't be sorry you went to see Bend It Like Beckham.