I realize it’s been an entire week since my introductory post and not a single update. And while we all hate to hear the ‘I’ve just been so busy’ spiel, I will use it now.
I donned my law school cap on a rainy Saturday morning yesterday and completed the required Multi-state Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The test is administered a few times each year and is the ‘ethics’ exam aspiring lawyers are required to take. Ethics? Lawyers? Ha HA, you say? Yeah, yeah — cue the lawyer jokes.
“Who has two thumbs and passed the Ethics exam? This guy!” – Saul Goodman, circa 2011.
Anyway, while I’m sure you’d love some verse in iambic pentameter on the contingency fee, I would rather not become the lame law school student who blogs about the model rules in her spare time. So, onto a movie review/reflection!
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Now, I realize that BILB appears to be a strange choice for a movie ‘aficionado’ (I use that term loosely) to choose for her first review. However, the weight and impact this film had on me makes it much more than just a coming-of-age film to me.
Why This Film is Important to Me
As the only Muslim and Pakistani-American (even South Asian) student at school for most of my k-12 years, I didn’t have many classmates who looked like me. I grew up in a conservative, mid-sized town nestled in the heartland of the US, during a time when political correctness wasn’t really as prevalent (for better or for worse) in the average school setting as it is today.
In elementary school, my classmates, for the most part, didn’t know who or what Muslims were. And they certainly did not know where Pakistan was on the map. After September 11th, 2001, everything changed. I was in the Seventh Grade in 2001, and after September 11th and throughout the early Bush-era, I basically went through an identity crisis. My middle-school classmates, from 2001 onwards, had very, very limited knowledge on Muslims or Pakistan, but they kind of had a vague idea that there was some insidious connection between Islam and Pakistan and the Middle East. I was asked questions like “[a]re you part of the Taliban?” etc. Though upsetting, for the most part, none of these questions were intended to be nasty.
On the other hand of the spectrum, teachers hailed me as the resident expert on all things related to the Middle East, Muslims, and hate crimes against anyone falling into the first two categories. For example, I wrote an ok-but-not-amazing essay for a Veteran’s Day assignment and was required to read it in during an assembly on Veteran’s Day because, as the teacher put it “your background makes it extra important this year.” Kind of strange shoes for a 13-year old to fill.
Take-Away from ^
Anyway, the reason I detailed everything above is not solely for cathartic purposes, but also really to put into context why BILB remains such a memorable film for me. The film is, on its face, about a girl who defies her parents’ wishes and pursue her dreams of playing women’s soccer. Stated that way, the movie plot line doesn’t seem groundbreaking. However, when I saw the trailer for BILB, it was something entirely revolutionary to 13-year-old-me. I saw a brown-skinned teenager with traditional, conservative South Asian parents going through the same identity crisis as me. I saw a girl who was attempting to reconcile her upbringing in the UK with her parent’s cultural and religious heritage. Sure, there were differences, but I had never seen anyone more similar to me (sadly) in any Western television show or film, up until that point.
I realize that this post hasn’t really been a movie review, more so than a nostalgic reflection on why I valued the film so much as a teenager. My teenage feelings aside, I appreciate the writing for this film, even though some of the dialog is a bit lackluster. Along that vein, some of the characters’ personalities (mainly mothers) are over-exaggerated. Overall, the movie follows a pretty standard formula for a coming-of-age film. However, these flaws can be overlooked by the fact that the movie molds the old-formula in a clever way.
1. The jokes deliver — the one-liners are pretty memorable
Don’t worry, Miss Bahmra. Our designs will make even these little mosquito bites look like juicy, juicy mangos! — Dressmaker
2. You genuinely root for the main characters in this film (Jess and Jules) because they are real and relatable. Both girls are struggling against societal/culture gender expectations. Also, friendship is an important theme in the film.
Sidenote: Parminder Nagra delivers an awesome performance in this movie. Her facial expressions alone make the film that much more enjoyable. Keira Knightley’s facial expressions are also memorable in the film, particularly whenever she responds to her anti-soccer mother’s commentary.
Sidenote 2: I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently director Gurinder Chadha originally wanted to make the love story between Jess and Jules! It would make sense given the similarities between the characters and how well they get along. Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra had excellent chemistry in this film. Moreover, they travel to the US together at the end of the film, so it would have worked plot-wise perfectly. Ultimately, I’m glad she scrapped that idea though because I don’t believe the film would have had as wide of an impact globally as it did with the Joe and Jess story. Also, I’m glad because — the Jess and Joe story was pretty squeal worthy for me. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a dream boat in the film — and duh, my teenage-takeaway –> brown girls can also get the hot soccer coach!
Hey Girl, I totally support your decision to play soccer. I also totally support your loyalty to your family and customs.
3. The love story weaves into the film’s plot seamlessly. Moreover, the protagonist’s love interests do not alter her allegiances to her family and her goals (no pun intended). In too many teenage coming-of-age films, the love story overwhelms the film’s plot to an unhealthy and unrealistic degree. Not so in BILB, where Jess ultimately chooses to delay a relationship with her soccer coach Joe, so she has a chance to warm up her parents to the idea first.
4. The movie is a visual treat. It’s full of bright colors — lush green soccer fields and vibrant saris. In particular, the wedding scene is a feast for the eyes, with orange marigolds and feverish dancing filling the screen.
Someone grab me a laddoo! -- Me
5. The soundtrack is awesome. Each song correlates with each respective scene perfectly. Indian songs, American songs, British songs, Mash-ups. Ah, I love it. “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield is excellently placed at a scene where Jess runs off to play soccer, against the knowledge of her parents.
Also, who doesn’t love some Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan mash-ups? –> “Kinna Sohna” is beautifully placed in the film, as is “Noorie” by Bally Sagoo.
Lastly, “Inner-Smile” by Texas, is kind of the theme for this film. And as corny as it sounds, it always brings a smile to my face.
Overall, this film is an enjoyable ride and is timeless. It’s the kind of movie that just makes you feel better whenever you watch it. The writing is on point, the performances are solid, and the story is full of heart.
I give it a SOLID A.
GOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLL – Me
Till Next Time