During my Freshman year of high school, I was invited to a sleepover/movie night. The theme was Keira Knightley, whom my friends and I were obsessed with. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl had just come out, and we thought she was the coolest thing since sliced bread. We also managed to track down a copy of Bend It Like Beckham, which is still one of my favorites.
For those of you who haven’t see it, BILB is about a girl named Jess (the amazing Parminder Nagra) who wants nothing more than to play football (or soccer, as we call it here in America) and never grow up. Her conservative Indian family has other plans for her, however. Jess meets a fellow female footballer, Jules (Knightley), and is invited to join a women’s team. Jess then spends her time juggling her budding sports career, academics, and her sister’s wedding plans – all while trying to keep her new hobby a secret from her parents AND learn a full Punjabi dinner. Not an easy feat.
Jules has got her share of coming-of-age pains too. Her mother wants nothing more than for her to put on a dress, go shopping, and get a boyfriend. But the boy Jules likes, her football coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), may have feelings for her new best friend.
Bend It Like Beckham is a laugh-out-loud comedy, and is mildly predictable, but it earns points for addressing lingering cultural and racial barriers with grace and sensitivity. It’s also a classic “follow your heart” story that I think will continue to inspire young girls for years to come, just like it inspired me. It’s hard to believe it’s been eleven years since this movie came out (yeesh, I’m getting old), but it’s still one of the greats.