Just as Gurinder Chandha’s Bend It Like Beckham negates its message of female empowerment by sexing-up its female leads, any ax the sex objects from the director’s equally shrill Bride & Prejudice may have to grind with their marriage-minded parents is contradicted by the film’s own shameless desire to ingratiate itself in the American marketplace. A Bollywoodized version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the film concerns an overzealous Indian woman’s attempts to marry her daughters (described by one character, sans rimshot, as “naked livewires—if you get too close you’ll get an electric shock of love”) and the Three’s Company-style hijinks that ensue when one daughter, Lalita (Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai), gets mixed up with an American played by Martin Henderson with a propensity for sticking his foot in his mouth. From India to Los Angeles, there isn’t a culture that isn’t reduced to a condescending spectacle of color-coded clichés, but Chandha reserves the most scorn for her own native India, lazily condemning Lalita’s mother’s desire to marry her daughters into money and mocking Indians who find money abroad (“As Gloria Estefan says, ‘The rhythm is gonna get you,’” yaps one annoying clusterfuck) while hypocritically selling a contemporary India’s soul to Harry Weinstein. The acting isn’t half bad and undiscriminating critics will be easily bamboozled by the film’s pretty colors, but the film’s broad humor is truly witless (a fight inside a movie theater between Henderson’s Will Darcy and a fellow hunk who’s also after Lalita may be the lamest bid any film has ever made for meta credibility) and the musical numbers range from screechy to screechier, the worst being “No Life Without Wife,” one of many songs that bring to mind the Spice Girls starring in a live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. If, according to the film, everyone has their hands on India, Chandra similarly has her hands on the American box office.
- Gurinder Chadha
- Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha
- Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen Andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Indira Varma, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher, Meghna Kothari, Peeya Rai Chowdhary, Nitin Chandra Ganatra, Sonali Kulkarni
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