Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Summer movie season breaks open early with ‘X-2,’ ‘Bend It Like Beckham’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 22, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

There were very large crowds at the local theater in Cheney for X-Men 2. Most of the viewers seated near me were well familiar with the original X-Men.

I did not see the original X-Men back in 2000. So intricacies of the plot may well have gotten by me. But I can tell you X2, as it is called by passionate followers, is an entertaining movie that is filled with excellent actors. It is a science-fiction adventure film that I thoroughly enjoyed.

According to the film, the world has evolved in such a way that there is a fairly large group of people who are called mutants. The mutants each seem to have one rather unusual power.

The leader of the good mutants is Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). He has been captured by U. S. military official named Brian Stryker, played by Brian Cox. The leader of the bad mutants is Magneto (Ian McKellen). Stryker is out to destroy all mutants, using Professor Xavier. So in the story all mutants are thrown together under attack.

The fascinating aspects of the film are the unique and gifted mutants who are able to use extraordinary powers in sometimes rather ordinary situations. One mutant, Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), has the ability to read minds, levitate, and let loose mental bolts. Another, called Cyclops (James Marsden), is able to release from his eyes an optic power blast. Another, named Pyro, is able to use the force of fire in visually overwhelming ways. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays a follower of Magneto named Mystique. She is able to shift the molecules and atoms of her body into the appearance of any person of either sex.

The mutant who opens the movie in a devastating way is Nightcrawler, who also goes by the name Kurt Wagner. Nightcrawler, played by Alan Cumming, is able to teleport himself and a certain amount of mass through walls and buildings. He also has a religious side, as he lives in an old church and prays the “Good Shepherd” psalm.

There are other mutants, played by stars such as Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and Anna Paquin. The attempted love story between Paquin’s character Rogue and Iceman is a riot. Rogue has the gift and, I suppose, curse to be able to absorb another person’s abilities through physical contact. But prolonged contact, such as a passionate kiss, can kill the other person. It is quite a journey for Rogue and Iceman to reach the point of a kiss without endangering Iceman’s life.

X-2 is about being different. The mother of Iceman, when she finds out he is a mutant, asks if there is someway he could try not being a mutant. There are some aspects of this film that could lead to an interesting discussion of public policy in terms of the recent events in our lives. Like much of science fiction, X-2 has the ability to connect with our day-to-day world.

Director Bryan Singer has done a fabulous job in making sense of a complex story with lots of subplots. The special effects are well done. But for me the highlight of the film is the fascinating group of characters we meet in X-2’s world of mutants. Even if science fiction leaves you kind of clueless, X-2 is a visual delight, with lots ideas in play. X-2 is the early summer’s first big hit. It is worth seeing.

X-2 is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Lots of movie violence and a few profanities. The Catholic Bishops’ Committee rates the film A-II – for adults and adolescents.

*****

When I recently purchased my ticket for the new comedy from England titled Bend It Like Beckham at the Regal Northtown Cinemas I couldn’t remember the title, so I blurted out, “The film that is about soccer.” The ticket seller gave me a ticket to the right film.

If you enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding I can almost guarantee that you will find Bend It Like Beckham equally entertaining. In fact I enjoyed it more.

Jess is an Anglo-Indian high school senior who loves to play soccer, which in England is called football. After playing extensively with young Indian men at a public park in a suburb of London, Jess (Parminder Nagra) is invited to be a part of a women’s soccer club. Her parents prefer she take more interest in learning how to cook Indian foods and look for an Indian husband.

Jess has filled her room with pictures of a great English male soccer player by the name of David Beckham. She fanaticizes about eventually being a star player with Beckham on one of the great English teams.

The movie follows Jess as she becomes more proficient as a soccer player and finds herself continually lying to her parents in order to play and at the same time keep them happy.

The father of Jess wanted to play cricket as a young man but was not allowed to because of his race. He has sworn he will never play the game again. So Dad has some mixed feelings as his daughter seems to be charging after her “bliss” at all costs.

Throughout the film characters misconstrue what they see in front of them. The question about reality is always present. Do we really see what is happening or do we see what we want to see?

In the midst of Jess becoming a key player on her team and also being infatuated with the Irish male coach of her team who knows he cannot respond and be the coach, there are lots of circling plots involving the marriage of her older sister in a traditional Indian style and the whole nagging issue of prejudice.

In one game Jess is called a racist epithet. She reacts by going after the English girl who called her a cruel name. Jess finds herself thrown out of the game.

The championship game takes place the same day as her sister’s wedding and Jess is unable to play because of family obligations. How the story all turns out at this point is for the viewer to enjoy.

Bend It Like Beckham is about the world’s most popular sport. But on another level it is about culture and the individual. Do you submerse yourself in the will of the community or do you fight to excel using your individual talents to the full? Certainly our American society usually emphasizes the individual. In Beckham, where there is lots of humor and questions raised on Indian culture, there is also a sympathetic portrayal of the positive goods of a tight-knit community built on long standing traditions.

In Beckham, director Gurinder Chadha has given us a visual love poem of participating in sports and being part of a rich culture. At the same time Chadha challenges us to appreciate what we’ve been given from our families and yet develop our individual talents to the fullest. Bend It Like Beckham is a wonderful film.

Bend It Like Beckham is rated PG-13. The U.S. Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting rates it A-II – adults and adolescents.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)


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