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Originally published Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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After "Twilight," what other movies are there for girls?

Moira Macdonald's list of films that may especially appeal to teen and tween girls includes "Bend It Like Beckham," "I Capture the Castle" and "Akeelah and the Bee," among others.

Seattle Times movie critic

It's not all vampires out there in teen-girl movieland. Here is a handful of films from recent years that I wish my teenage (or preteen, in a few cases) self could have watched. All are currently available on DVD; all are rated PG-13 unless otherwise noted.

"Real Women Have Curves" (2002)

Before America Ferrera found "Ugly Betty" or well-travelled pants, she starred in this likable indie film about a teenage girl who dreams of college — against the wishes of her mother, who wants her to work in her sister's dress factory. Ferrera here shows the sweetness and charm that have since made her a star, and the film's mother-daughter clashes (played with fire and sincerity by Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros) mixed with love will resonate with young viewers.

"Bend it Like Beckham" (2003)

Gurinder Chadha's warm comedy/drama about sports and family focuses on two soccer-loving British teens: Jess (Parminder Nagra), the younger daughter in a traditional Indian family, and Jules (a pre-"Pirates" Keira Knightley), whose interest in soccer goes against the wishes of her very girlie mother. The soccer sequences are exhilarating, and the movie swirls with glorious color — creating an unexpected mood of giddy happiness.

"Whale Rider" (2003)

A lovely film for all ages (but especially for preteens), this New Zealand coming-of-age drama features a heroine who's just 11. Keisha Castle-Hughes received an Oscar nomination for her fierce performance as young Pai, whose grandfather says she can't carry on her family's Maori lineage because she's not a boy. Filled with beautiful footage of the New Zealand landscape, it's a haunting story of girl power.

"I Capture the Castle" (2003)

Girls will swoon (this girl certainly did) for this utterly enchanting British film, based on Dodie Smith's beloved book about a teen who lives in a castle with her eccentric, impoverished family. It's witty, it's romantic, it's wonderfully acted (Romola Garai, as the 17-year-old heroine, Cassandra, seems to transform from girl to woman before our eyes) and it's full of pretty frocks — what more could one wish for? (Ignore the film's absurd R rating, awarded for "brief nudity" in a nonsexual context — Cassandra's stepmother likes to parade naked around the moors.)

"Sequins" (2005)

Not rated by the MPAA, this French drama about a pregnant 17-year-old is appropriate for older teens and is an often startlingly lovely tale of friendship. Claire, the mother-to-be, takes a job with Madame Melikian, an embroiderer for a famous Paris couture house; together, as their needles quietly click, they form a fierce, touching and often wordless bond. The sequined and beaded stitchery is photographed like works of art, creating its own beautiful light.

"Pride & Prejudice" (2005)

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Keira Knightley, again? Nonetheless, bookish teenage girls have long loved Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice," and this 2005 film version nicely captures the book's wit and swoony romance. Knightley, whose Elizabeth is barely out of her teens, gives a performance both fetching and fiery, and Matthew Macfadyen brings an intriguing frostiness to Darcy, whose passions suddenly burst out — when else? — in a tumultuous rainstorm. Good literary fun.

"Akeelah and the Bee" (2006)

Another one for the younger girls (this one's rated PG), "Akeelah" is the story of a troubled L.A. preteen who doesn't realize she's a spelling whiz. Through her talent with words (listen while she denounces an adult as a "dictatorial, truculent, supercilious gardener"), she discovers her own self-worth. Keke Palmer, who's got a charming naturalness as Akeelah, established herself here as a star in the making.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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