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Bend It Like Beckham

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This comedy about an Anglo-Indian girl who wants to play professional soccer has been a crowd pleaser in the UK, Australia, and South Africa--all places where soccer is a national religion--but the crowd I saw it with seemed more delighted by its affectionate satire of tradition-minded Indians living in Britain, a subculture well known to writer-director Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach). Newcomer Parminder Nagra is sweet and sincere as the aspiring jock, whose parents would prefer her to become a solicitor and marry a nice Indian man; Keira Knightley is tartly sexy as her supportive teammate. The overly busy script juggles a variety of social issues (people constantly assume that the two players are lovers) and subplots (both girls have crushes on their soft-spoken Irish coach, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), but fine character work by Juliet Stevenson, Archie Panjabi, and Bollywood regular Anupam Kher make this well worth seeing. 112 min. Pipers Alley.

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