Bend It Like Beckham
–2002, Gurinder Chadha
The cliché “feel-good flick” has been done almost to death, but Bend it Like Beckham honestly deserves that title.
One doesn’t have to be a football (soccer, for us Americans) fan to understand the simple conflict of this movie: Jess (Parminder Negra) wants to play, and her orthodox Sikh parents think she’d be better off learning to cook so that she can catch a husband. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out how the movie is going to end, either. No surprises here, but there are lots of laughs, and the movie left me feeling better about the world than I did when I entered the theater.
The England of this film never has overcast day, let alone rain, and the screen pops with color–especially at Jess’s sister’s wedding. The music is equally vibrant, and the movie manages to poke fun at the overbearing parents while at the same time celebrating their traditions. The Sikhs aren’t the only ones to laugh at here, either: Jules, Jess’s English friend, has an equally overbearing mother who hilariously thinks her daughter is a lesbian because she plays football.
Lovely supporting performances by Keira Knightley as Jules, Juliet Stevenson as Jules’s mother, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers makes you understand why Jess and Jules are willing to fight over him, but easily the best performances are from Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan as Jess’s parents.
This movie was one hundred percent pure fun, and made me want to run out and join a soccer team.
— 2001, Elia Suleiman
Divine Intervention was at times confusing–the only clear impression that I had at the end of the film was Jews=bad, Palestinians=good.
At some points, the movie did an excellent job of showing how difficult it is to live as a Palestinian in Israel. The love between the two leads, if they can be called that, was excellently shown, all without a single word. But a few scenes crossed the line between poignant and propaganda.
The best parts of this film were a series of vignettes showing the lives of a group of neighbors. They were funny, and at the same time made an impression about how miserable people can be to each other. As one of the characters says (in one of this movie’s very few lines); “Neighbors should respect one another.” Very little of this film is spoken–its power is in images, and most of the words spoken serve simply as punch lines.
I wanted to like Divine Intervention. It made me laugh and it made me think. But I was also alienated by a few pointedly political scenes that I think actually lessened the effect of the film. One such scene involved a balloon with the face of Yasser Arafat, which started out funny, with Israeli soldiers debating whether or not to shoot it down as it passed the checkpoint, but ended with the balloon sailing over a temple and a church to settle on the top of a mosque in Jerusalem. Another scene ended with a large Palestinian flag appearing over Israeli soldiers. The point that the Palestinians are not treated well came across best in the scenes between the lovers forced to meet in their car at the checkpoint because they could not cross it, and flag-raising and painting Arafat as a saint lessened the effect of the film.
Perhaps the revenge fantasies of the director/star hit too close to home for me: although they hardly glorified suicide bombings and the like, they also seemed to be a step on the road toward that type of thought.