Thursday, October 16, 2003

Bend It Like Beckham

My friend Stan sends out emails to a few friends giving them his opinions on movies. I especially liked this one so I thought I'd post it for the world to see.


Star Wars proved you could spend a lot of money on a movie and get it back. It ended a drought about 20 years long in which the movie industry was afraid to do that. The result was a rebirth for film.

From the beginning of the movie industry, producers have also known that star power was capable of selling movies. But Lucas put out Star Wars without any really big stars, and took the brass ring. (No, Harrison Ford doesn’t count. He wasn’t a star yet.)

But today, studios and producers fall all over themselves creating SFX (special effects) CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and even fully animated features that aren’t about a duck and a rabbit ... They also still use the power of big stars to suck in the fans. By the time you have big stars walking on Mars being chased by aliens while dodging ray guns, you are supposed to have a bulletproof concoction that will rake in the dough so fast it’s in the black before it goes to video.

But it doesn’t always work.

So how do you explain movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Bend It Like Beckham? No big stars, no special effects, just competent basic cinematography and relatively unknown competent actors and a wonderful story that makes you realize how great life is and how much you love people...

One thing is still basic: The story has to be good. A good story will sell a film that has neither the biggest effects nor the biggest stars, and a super-production with a bad story can die a sorry death.

Bend It Like Beckham is one of those heart-warming films that has so much of what a good story is all about, nothing else matters. You can’t help getting caught up in this great little tale about a talented young Indian woman in Britain who wants to become a soccer star (that’s "football" to you non-Americans) and endeavors to make it go right in spite of her very traditional Sikh parents who have a much more hide-bound notion of how her life should be and a wicked reaction to the idea of her running around on a field kicking a ball "with her legs showing".

Her partner in crime is actually a pretty big star! But she wasn’t when this movie was made. Keira Knightley was the damsel in distress in the blockbuster Pirates Of The Caribbean. But Beckham came out before Pirates. So it’s like seeing unknown Harrison Ford in Star Wars or unknown Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza. The entire film was made for 3.5 million dollars - chicken feed by today’s standards, when 75 million is common and 200 million is not unheard of. Big stars bloat the budget by 5-20 million each before you even stop by Kodak to pick up the film. But Beckham has made more than 10 times it’s original investment. After a meek opening weekend of only about $190,000.00, it began to grow by word of mouth, mostly. You can count on the fact there wasn’t a lot of publicity in a 3.5 million-dollar budget.

Like it’s beautiful little star Parminder Nagra, who played the Indian soccer phenom, the film finally "showed its legs" and walked through months of hanging around in the top 20 box office successes while jillion-dollar blockbusters came and went in a few weekends. Now it’s finally gone to video.

If that doesn’t make you want to see the video yourself, then let me add one detail. This is a true "feel good" movie! In my lexicon, that’s a good thing, not a bad one.

Just to clear up your next question, "Beckham" is the name of a current British soccer super-star that is worshipped by the girls, and "Bend It" is a soccer phrase, at least in Britain, that has to do with putting some kind of spin on the ball, as nearly as I can tell. So the phrase "Bend It Like Beckham" is something like a baseball fan saying, "Slam it like Sammy Sosa" or a basketball fan saying, "Dunk It Like Shaq".

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