Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
I saw more important films at Sundance 2003, but none more purely enjoyable than "Bend It Like Beckham," which is just about perfect as a teenage coming-of-age comedy. It stars a young actress of luminous appeal, it involves sports, romance and of course her older sister's wedding, and it has two misinformed soccer moms--one who doesn't know a thing about the game and another who doesn't even know her daughter plays it.
The movie, set in London, tells the story of Jesminder Bjamra, known as "Jess," who comes from a traditional Indian family. Her parents are Sikhs who fled from Uganda to England, where her dad works at Heathrow airport. They live in the middle-class suburb of Hounslow, under the flight path of arriving jets, where her mother believes that Jess has two great duties in life: to learn to prepare a complete Indian meal, and to marry a nice Indian boy, in exactly that order.
Jess plays soccer with boys in the park. In her family's living room is a large portrait of a Sikh spiritual leader, but above Jess's bed is her own inspiration--the British soccer superstar David Beckham, better known to some as Posh Spice's husband. To Beckham's portrait she confides her innermost dream, which is to play for England. Of course a girl cannot hope to be a soccer star, and an Indian girl should not play soccer at all, since in her mother's mind the game consists of "displaying your bare legs to complete strangers." Jess is seen in the park one day by Juliette (Keira Knightley), who plays for the Hounslow Harriers, a woman's team, and is recruited to join them. The coach is a young Irishman named Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), and it is love at second or third sight--complicated, because Joe cannot date his players, and Juliette has a crush on him, too.
But all of these elements make the film sound routine, and what makes it special is the bubbling energy of the cast and the warm joy with which Gurinder Chadha, the director and co-writer, tells her story. I am the first to admit that Gurinder Chadha is not a name on everybody's lips, but this is her third film and I can promise you she has an unfailing instinct for human comedy that makes you feel good and laugh out loud.