BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
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As the credits roll, the sounds of a British football (soccer) stadium wells up as the commentator talks about the abilities of David Beckham, the Manchester United midfielder and England's captain. Just at the moment, Beckham gets the ball and lifts a terrific cross to a teammate who heads it into the goal. The commentator is clearly pleased, saying how the scorer, Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), is really a fresh face to the world of premier league football. The camera then closes in on Jess and Beckham as they celebrate a post-goal hug.
The camera switches to the commentators' studio where each of the three commentators (including Gary Lineker!) sings Jess' praises. Lineker than turns to Jess' mother, who is also in the studio and asks her whether or not she is proud of her daughter. Jess' mother Mrs. Bhamra (Shaheen Khan) launches into a tirade about how Jess is not behaving like a proper Indian girl and how she really shouldn't be flashing her legs to thousands of football hooligans.
Mrs. Bhamra's shrill voice snaps us back into reality: Jess is not really on the Man U team - she's just nuts about Beckham and is watching the match just as her mother storms into the room telling her to hurry up and get ready so Jess can help her soon-to-be-married sister shop for the wedding. Jess reluctantly goes with her sister: a study in opposites: her sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi) is all about the right clothes and the right makeup. Jess goes out in sweats.
That night, as Jess is walking home from shopping, she passes through the park where several of her guy friends are playing footie. One of them, her best friend Tony (Ameet Chana) asks her to join, since their side really needs some help. Jess is easily persuaded and is soon demonstrating some real skill, and more than pulls her weight against the boys. Her talents are spotted by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley) who happens to be jogging in the park.
Jules soon approaches Jess and invites her to join a women's football team. Jess is thrilled and turns up for practice the next day. The team's coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a little skeptical at first (since Jess has never played on a proper pitch before, has never played any position before, and doesn't even have cleats!), but he is soon impressed by Jess' abilities and she is invited onto the team.
Jess' elation is short-lived - she is discouraged from playing the moment her parents hear about it.
Mr. Bhamra (Anupam Kher) even tells of how when he first got to the UK, he wanted to join a cricket league, but discrimination prevented him from pursuing that passion - he doesn't want Jess to go through the same heartbreak. Her hopes dashed, she decides to lie. She tells her parents that she has a job at HMV, which gets her out of the house and onto the football pitch. Jules and Jess become fast friends. The two also develop crushes on Joe, but neither admits it to the other.
Meanwhile, the Pinky's wedding preparations are underway and her fiance's family decides to make a visit to the Bhamra household to pay their respect. On their way, they see Jess and Jules at the bus-stop outside Jules house. The two were giggling and hugging as the car sped past. When Jess gets home, the tension in the house is thick. Pinky's would-be in-laws get up in a huff and leave. Jess' dad tells her that she was seen kissing a white boy at the bus stop and the wedding has been called off. Jess is shocked and explains that she wasn't kissing anyone, and she was at the bus stop with her friend Jules, a girl who happens to have short hair. Pinky cannot be consoled, and in a moment of spite, spills the beans on how Jess has been sneaking off to football practice every day.
Jess is banned from practice. Joe, who notices her absence, visits the Bhamra household to try and convince the Bhamra's to let Jess play. He is unsuccessful, but Jess continues to sneak out. She pretends to be sick while her parents and Pinky head off to temple - but the moment they leave, she dashes off for her football match. Unfortunately for her, her father forgets his cell phone and comes home to retrieve it.... thus discovering her lie. He attends the match and sees for himself how good Jess is. However, he also witnesses one of the opposing team's players yelling a racial slur at Jess. Jess shoves the player continuously and is ejected from the field. She is very upset, and Joe gives her a hug to comfort her - just as her dad rounds the corner. Catching her playing football, and then catching her in Joe's embrace is almost too much, and Jess is in even deeper hot water.
There is some good news - Pinky's fiance has managed to convince his parents that Pinky is the one for him and that there will never be anyone else - so the wedding is back on. However, it's been rescheduled for the exact day of the final championship match. Jess is crushed.
Pinky and Jess make up, and Pinky helps Jess plot on her next adventure: Germany. The team is going to Germany to play and the sisters make up a story about staying over at a cousin's house for the weekend. Pinky offers to cover for Jess while she is away. In Germany, Jess and Jules continue to play the invincible double-team, wowing everyone, including an American scout. The game is tied and Jess gets a penalty. The pressure is on, but she kicks the ball right into the goalkeeper's hand, failing to "bend it like Beckham". Her team is supportive though, the the group decide to go out and party.
Jess gets impossibly drunk that night and becomes more bold than she would be in normal circumstances - and leans forward to kiss Joe - just as Jules comes into the room. The two have a huge falling out.
Jess' father, meanwhile, read about her exploits in Germany on the sports pages. Jess is found out again. Now, there is no chance of her playing in the finals. Her father is adamant that she give up soccer.
On the days preceding the wedding, Jess is completely depressed. She tries to make amends with Jules, but to no avail. She carries out the duties of a sister, but is completely joyless. Pinky doesn't even notice, as she is completely ecstatic over the event.
Joe decides to patch things up with Jules and the two have a good conversation about what happened. Joe also tells Jules that the American scout will be at the finals match and will make a decision after the match on whether to offer Jules and Jess scholarships to go to the states and potentially play in the women's professional league. Jules runs to tell Jess, but Jess is already set in her hapless state. Jules is frustrated that Jess doesn't want to keep fighting to do what she loves and leaves in disappointment.
On the day of the wedding, all is going well for both worlds: the team is playing well in the match, although they miss Jess; and the wedding to the event that it promised to be. However, Jess is completely miserable - to the point of despair - and Tony offers to drive her to the match where she can at least play in the second half and be back in time before anyone notices. She doesn't want to get into more trouble, but her father overhears the conversation and allows her to go, saying, "I'll let you go play, as long as you promise to come back with a smile on your face, instead of looking like you are at your father's funeral". Tony and Jess speed off.
Jess leaps onto the field, and is greeted immediately by a hug from Jules - all is forgiven it seems and the two immediately fall into their old routine. Jess gets a penalty again, and this time, she bends the ball just like Beckham does, and wins the game.
The two meet with the American scout after the game and are both offered scholarships in Santa Clara. Jess heads home to fight her biggest fight so far. Her mother is completely opposed to it, and it seems as if Jess will have to stay home, but her father starts talking about how good Jess is at football, and how he is so proud that she has fought for what she wants, when he himself didn't fight against discrimination. He gives her his blessing and her mother acquisces as well. Jess runs off to tell Joe the good news and the two share a long hug. As Joe leans down to kiss Jess, she stops him, saying that with her going to the states, and being so far away, maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to start something. Not only that, but letting her go to the states is a big step for her parents, and Jess doesn't know if it would be fair to hit them with news that she wants to date Joe. Joe is disappointed but agrees.
The two families are at the airport, saying goodbye to Jess and Jules. Just as they are about to board, Joe comes running in, saying to Jess how in spite of all the obstacles, he thinks they should fight and try having a relationship. Jess smiles and kisses him. At that moment, Jules exclaims, "It's Beckham!!!!". The camera pans to Beckham and his wife Victoria stepping off the plane. Jess glances up, but quickly returns her gaze to Joe. Jules seems to be completely okay with Jess and Joe - and the two say their goodbyes and board the plane.
As the credits roll, we see each family receiving photographs of the two playing on a team in Santa Clara, and as the camera pulls up from the Bhamra's front yard, we see Mr. Bhamra playing cricket and teaching Joe how to bowl.
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