BWW Review: LITTLE MISS PERFECT Encourages Audiences to 'Face Your Beast'
Think back to your high school years for a moment. Hopefully, for the most part, the memories are good, funny, positive thoughts of friends, parties, graduations, and dreams of the future. The laws of being a teenager, though, more than likely ensured that bouts of self doubt, insecurity, and self consciousness creeped their way into daily life, making those already awkward years even more awkward. The new film LITTLE MISS PERFECT, written, directed, and produced by Marlee Roberts, takes and in depth look at these insecurities and how they can so easily grab hold of the teenage mind and wreak havoc if left unchecked.
More specifically, LITTLE MISS PERFECT chronicles THE LIFE of Belle (played by Marlee's sister, Karlee Roberts), an over-ambitious high school freshman who stumbles upon a blog promoting anorexia and other eating disorders. At first, the site catches her attention, but she quickly moves past it, knowing that something about it is wrong. However, as family troubles and daily social and academic pressures begin to grow, what once was a passing CURIOSITY becomes an obsession - and a way to control an otherwise chaotic world. Belle soon finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole as her eating disorder takes hold of her life. Her social life all but vanishes, and she starts missing classes. In the end, she finds that she must rely on her family and her true friends to help her confront and overcome her demons, once and for all.
LITTLE MISS PERFECT premiered on Friday, March 4, 2016 at the Director's Guild Theater in New York City. The cast, which, in addition to Karlee Roberts, includes Isabella Palmieri, Tom Degnan, Charlie Swan, Eden Wright, and Broadway star Lilla Crawford, came out to support the film, which holds a special place in their hearts.
"The story stemmed from my actual high school experiences," explains Marlee Roberts, who, like Belle, stumbled upon a pro-eating disorder blog when she was in high school. "It's so intriguing, and you're curious, and being a teenager, you're like, 'Yeah, I want to rebel and I want to do something like this,' but then on the inside, you're like, 'Okay, I know that's not right." The film touches on that disparity, and hopes to serve as a forum for girls who, like Marlee, have found these kinds of sites and are confused by what they're trying to promote. "My thinking with the film is, if we can find that community elsewhere and we can bring it up and we can be like, 'Hey, yeah, we're all feeling this,' we might not need to go to something that's unhealthy."
Marlee's sister, Karlee, who plays Belle in the film, explains that her character "has to realize that not everything can always be perfect." Karlee spent a lot of time researching her role, watching documentaries, reading about eating disorders, and speaking with child and adolescent psychologists to learn more about the mentality behind anorexia and other eating disorders. "Belle tries to control her life by controlling her weight," she explains. In the end, though, says Karlee, it's important to "be comfortable with who you are and know that you can't always be perfect all the time."
Lilla Crawford, who plays one of Belle's best friends, Olivia, spoke to BroadwayWorld exclusively about the stigma that is so often associated with eating disorders, and how her character tries to break those misconceptions. "What's interesting about [Olivia] is she is kind of the first one to come up to Belle and say, 'Hey, what's going on?' She's very upfront about it."
The film, Crawford says, appealed to her for many reasons. "I love that Marlee is a young woman, and we don't get a lot of directors that are young women! I love women who take the lead, and that was probably reason number one."
Women directors certainly do fall in the minority when it comes to filmmaking. According to Marlee, the stereotype of woman directors did eek its way onto set, but didn't hinder the filmmaking process for very long at all. "Generally, when I'm on set, people are like, 'Where is the director?' They're like, 'Are you an actor?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm directing you today!'...Once we get over that hurdle, then people take it seriously, they know that we're here to work, and that's fine. But it's always kind of funny to have that initial reaction from everybody."
Crawford and the rest of the cast certainly admire that tenacity in Marlee, and completely stand behind this film as a message to young girls across America who may be suffering from the same things Bella is in the film.
"The best way to reach out to people is to make a movie," explains Crawford. "Movies and songs and TV it's all very powerful and it gets the message out there."
What exactly is that message? Every single cast member, crew member, and viewer alike took away the same message from the film, including Broadway actress Kara Oates: "I hope that people take away hope from the film! Every day's a new day, and we have to make the best of it!"
The film certainly does convey a message of hope. Growing up is a tricky thing to navigate, especially when social, academic, and family pressures are all added into the mix. That, coupled with today's social media, where you can measure your popularity by the number of likes a photo gets on Instagram, makes for a dangerous cocktail of insecurity, self-doubt, and anonymity. LITTLE MISS PERFECT, which is Marlee's first feature film, handles what is an extremely delicate subject matter with careful precision, and shows teenagers that they are not alone.
What's up next for the film? Marlee revealed during an audience Q&A session that they'd like to take it around to high schools, and possibly even middle schools, in an effort to make sure that it is seen by as much of its target audience as possible. This way, no teen will have to feel like they're struggling alone.