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"Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?"

Bend It Like Beckham is a 2002 British film directed by Gurinder Chadha.

Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is the daughter of Punjabi Sikh immigrants living in London. She loves football (as in soccer), but her parents feel she should be focusing on more womanly, Indian pursuits. Befriending Jules (Keira Knightley), Jess joins a women's team behind their backs, and hilarity and drama ensue.

Tropes used in Bend It Like Beckham include:

  • Abusive Parents: Joe's father pushed him way too hard; Jess's parents aren't really "abusive", but they go out of their way to make it clear they don't want her playing. And Jules' mom is so amazingly embarrassing that it sometimes borders on abuse.
  • Bifauxnen: Jules, with her short hair, is mistaken for a boy in one scene.
  • Big Game
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Despite being the protagonist, Jess comes off as this from time to time.
    • Her sister Pinky is worse.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The Indian parents and elders have no idea what Jules's mum is freaking out about following the wedding reception; they believe the whole kerfuffle is partly a complaint about their noisy celebration and partly confusion over Jules's short hair.

  "Why did she take Jessminder's shoes?!"

  • Companion Cube: Jess talks to the poster of David Beckham in her room.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jess's dad is ultimately much more understanding of her than her mother, as is Juliet's.
  • Dawson Casting: Parminder Nagra was twenty-six, playing an eighteen-year-old. Inverted in the case of Keira Knightley, who was actually 16 years old at the time of filming and playing an 18-year-old.
  • Daydream Surprise: The opening sequence has Jess inserted into a professional match and saving the day, which might look like a Flash Forward. Then it turns into the commentators interviewing her mother, who launches into a tirade against the notion of her "running around with all these men, showing her bare legs to seventy thousand people."
  • Do Not Call Me Paul / First Name Ultimatum: Only Jess's and Jules's mothers call them Jesminder and Juliette respectively. Both find each other's full names as said by their mothers hilarious.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Jess and Pinky are Tomboy and Girly Girl. As they're both trying in their own ways to get out from under their parents' wing, though, they're more often allies than enemies.
  • Foot Focus: There's a scene focusing on Jess' feet, which is justified as Joe is checking her ankle injury.
  • Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: When Jules' mother accuses Jess and Jules of being lesbian lovers, one of Pinky's wedding guests is clearly visible in the background - he gives the two a once over, and responds with an approving nod and a lecherous smirk.
  • Groin Attack: Jess on a male player at the park (lightly, in vengeance for a boob joke).
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Elizabeth Swann and Dr Neela Rasgotra play football. Their coach is King Henry VIII.
  • Historical In-Joke: "Losing to the Jerries on penalties comes natural to you English. You're part of a long tradition now."
  • Jackie Robinson Story: Jess's father faced discrimination when he tried to play cricket in English clubs, and he doesn't believe that things have changed enough for an Indian girl to be accepted as a professional footballer. While Jess has it considerably better, she does get called a Paki at least once.
  • Lesbian Jock: Jules' mother thinks that her daughter and Jess are this.

  "All I'm saying is, there is a reason why Sporty Spice is the only one of them without a fella."

 Tony: "He's quite fit."

  • Nice Hat: Jules's mother wear a ridiculous one the first time she goes to see her play.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: When Jules is explaining to her mother that she's not a lesbian, she ends it by saying there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian anyways. Her mother, who is in tears and had just thrown a fit over her "discovery", quickly composes herself and adamantly agrees.

  "I've got nothing against it! I was cheering for Martina Navratilova as much as the next person!"

  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Half the young Indian characters.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Jess's parents' generation are rather torn about exactly how much control they can or should exert over their children. Pinky and her boyfriend are very much in love, but his parents still threaten to pull the plug on the upcoming wedding when they think they see Jess kissing a boy on the street and conclude that Pinky comes from a bad family. Also:

 Teammate: So if you can choose, does that mean you can marry a white boy?

Jess: White, no. Black, definitely not. A Muslim, unh-uh.

Teammate: Guess you'll be marrying an Indian, then.

Jess: Probably.

  • Put Me in Coach: Jess has to sub in after halftime in the final, and still manages to impress the scout enough to be offered a full ride scholarship on the spot.
  • Sad Bollywood Wedding: Invoked by the cameraman at Pinky's wedding, who yells at her for looking so happy. "Eyes down. Look sad. Don't smile. Indian bride never smiles. You'll ruin the bloody video!"
  • Settled for Gay: Tony tries to get Jess to settle down with him so that he won't have to tell his family he's gay and she can fulfill her parents' expectations and still play football. She doesn't go along, though.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Jess, and Jules for that matter, in Germany.
  • Shopping Montage
  • Star-Making Role: This and next year's Pirates of the Caribbean put Keira Knightley on the map; Parminder K. Nagra also did very well out of it.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: A rare example where a female character is demanding this of another one, while a male character opposes it.
  • Teacher-Student Romance: Or, in this case, coach-player romance.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jess and Jules have to play together during their fight.
  • Throw It In: The burn scars on Parminder Nagra's legs are real, as is the story of how she got them (give or take a few details). In the movie, they serve as a way to show Jess getting over her last inhibitions about playing with the team.
  • Triang Relations: Jules has a crush on Joe, but tells Jess she doesn't; then she feels betrayed when Jess and Joe sort-of-kind-of start a relationship. (To complicate things further, Joe isn't supposed to be dating either of them, as their coach, and Jess knows her parents wouldn't approve of her dating without their knowlege, especially a non-Indian guy. Oh, and Jules's mother mis-overhears Jules and Jess fighting about it and believes they've had a bad breakup.)
  • What Could Have Been: This originally was a lesbian love story.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: The theme of children defying their parents' expectations, and particularly the traditionalism of Indian immigrant parents versus their more assimilated kids, comes up again and again (with varying results).
    • The main plot, obviously: Jess wants to play football, but Indian girls don't do that.
    • Pinky is more feminine and eager to get married, but wears tight clothes, makeup and blue contacts that her mother doesn't approve of, and has to sneak around to have premarital sex with her boyfriend.
    • Tony is gay. Even Jess, when he tells her, says, "But you're Indian!" -- and then, "What's your mum going to say?" By the end of the movie, he still hasn't told anybody but her.
    • Jules's mother can't for the life of her understand why her daughter likes football so much and isn't interested in things like buying padded bras so as to snare a man. (Her father, by contrast, is supportive.)
    • Joe's father was so determined for him to improve his game that he caused him a career-ending injury. Joe also says he'd "piss himself" if he knew Joe was now coaching a women's team.
    • The idea of Jess dating or marrying her Irish coach is objectionable to her parents and even Pinky. Even at the end, she tells him they have to at least hold off on a relationship, because her parents have adjusted to enough changes in a short time span.[1]
  • You Go, Girl!


  1. Last we see Joe, he is playing cricket with Jess' dad and Teetu, Pinky's husband, and all are having a good time so he is working on them being more receptive to his and Jess being together.
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