This post is written by Domestic Geek contributor Jessica Edmonds.
I was recently given the opportunity to review a new film that has been making waves and grabbing awards on the film fest circuit called Little Miss Perfect.
The press release for Little Miss Perfect, by writer/director Marlee Roberts, describes the film as follows:
“LITTLE MISS PERFECT tells the story of an overambitious high school freshman who tries to control her life by controlling her weight.”
I’m not going to lie, when I was first asked to review a film about a young girl with a eating disorder, I internally groaned. Not because I disliked the subject matter, but simply because there are so many ways that a film like that can miss the mark. Many films that attempt to tackle topics involving mental health either completely misrepresent the issue or spend an hour and an half beating audiences over the head with their message. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the film presented this issue.
The story follows Belle, an overachieving freshman at a prestigious all girls high school. Intent on getting into a respectable college she throws herself into extracurricular activities, including a successful run for class president and applying for a pre-college writing workshop at Columbia. While her school life appears to be ideal, her home life is another story.
She tries unsuccessfully to garner the attention of her father, and her mother has packed up and left without word of where she has gone or when she will return. The pressure to live up to the high expectations she has placed on herself mixed with the loss of control she feels in her home life appear to be taking a toll on her. The catalyst to her eventual eating disorder comes in the form of a notification that she has a new follower on her Tumblr style social media account. She clicks the notification and is taken to the blog of “ThinnerIsTheWinner”.
As she scrolls down the blog posts she is met with a string of unsettling images glorifying emaciated women, and a gif that flashes between the words “EAT” and “FAT”. Without giving too much of the movie away, what follows is a surprisingly accurate portrayal of a young girl’s descent into a full blown eating disorder. Belle must now attempt to navigate the turbulent waters of school, family, relationships, and her sense of self. All while guarding the secret of the destructive disorder that is negatively affecting all aspects of her life including her health.
Check out the films trailer below (and CLICK HERE to visit the films website):
I was offered a chance to speak with the film’s creator Marlee Roberts. The problem was however, by the time of our scheduled phone call I had yet to see the film. So what I had planned to be an in depth interview quickly became a nice chat with a young film maker just excited to talk about her project. (Which, let’s be honest, that’s way more interesting than some stuffy interview!)
The main question on my mind was “What makes someone want to tackle this subject matter?”. What I found interesting is that Marlee’s first experience with the world of eating disorders came about exactly as Belle’s in the movie. While in high school, some pro eating disorder material popped up on her social media newsfeed because a friend of her’s had reposted it. At the time the images and ideas had fascinated her, but she knew it was wrong. She went on to explain how that experience, as well as writing this movie, caused her to step back and examine things about herself.
“Years later when I started doing research and writing this story I found out that I was really at risk for having an eating disorder based on my personality traits, and environment. I was doing my research and I was like wait, I’m like a typical case study. Why didn’t I succumb to that trigger?”
She was determined to explore this issue and discover why she didn’t become afflicted by this disorder despite having a personality that makes her predisposed to it. While she was researching she was met with a challenge that ended up helping her develop her movie.
“I was in film school, and I was given an assignment to adapt a fairytale. And I had these themes rolling around in my brain, and I decided to adapt Beauty and the Beast. Where Belle and the Beast are one and the same. In the original fairytale a curse is put on the Beast and he has to learn how to love someone and be loved in return in order to break that spell. And so I thought that would be a really cool principle to apply to Little Miss Perfect, where she has to learn how to love herself in order to break out of this spell.”
Wait, did she just tell me this movie has fairytale themes? Um, yes please! Seriously, I love fairytales. Anytime a fairytale can be reimagined or have it’s themes adapted into a new story, I’m down. At this point in our conversation I was already sold. But I still had some concerns on how the disorder itself would be portrayed. Often all the blame gets placed on social pressure or the entertainment industry’s idea of beauty and the mental and emotional components are ignored or down played. Marlee’s response really put my reservations to rest.
“Firstly, I think one of the biggest misunderstandings is that you like, pick up a magazine or you see something online and you get an eating disorder from some piece of media of a skinny girl. And that’s not the case. I mean, having an eating disorder is mental, it is psychological and emotional. Much more as a cause, and then the effect is the disorder itself, it’s the starvation or the excessive dieting or whatever coping mechanism…”
“In the movie, yea I really have aimed to de-stigmatize eating disorders and mental health really as a whole. Because as soon as you say that something is a mental issue or mental disorder there is that stigma placed on it, like ‘Are you going to be seen differently?’ ‘Are you capable of doing normal things?'”
“What I tried to do is really ground it in that aspect of control. So that anyone who watches this movie will be able to relate on a universal level to Belle’s struggle with control. Cause at some point in our lives we don’t feel worth something. And at some point in our lives we feel, like, this immense pressure. And at some point we feel like we can’t control these things and it’s a little chaotic. And I think that’s the way to de-stigmatize it, for you to go ‘Wait a second, I’m not that different.'”
Now that right there was exactly the answer I was wanting. Before I had even seen the film, I knew if she could deliver on what she just said that I would like this movie. As a child I suffered from extreme OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), and I still struggle with it to a lesser extent as an adult. The fact that Marlee understood the control aspect of this issue made me all the more excited to see the film. As we talked I brought up that I had noticed the lead role of Belle is played by her younger sister Karlee Roberts. She told me a little bit of what it was like for them to do this project together.
“At the time of the movie she was younger and definitely innocent. And I think that was something I really wanted to show with the film, was how young these kids are when they are starting to grapple with this. And having Karlee play Belle was, for me, quite soothing because I knew how she liked to work. And I knew that I could have time with her to really prep her and to make sure she felt comfortable with the material, and do research with her.”
“I learned a lot from her. And I think that she felt kind of safe knowing that we have such a close relationship, that she could be in a really vulnerable state for the movie and I would help her get out of it at the end of each day.”
By now I was kind of at the point where I didn’t want her to talk about the movie much more because I felt like it was going to spoil it for me. Silly, I know, but hey I hate being spoiled! So my final question was simply “What do you want people to take away from this movie?” and her response didn’t disappoint.
“I mean, I guess above everything else, besides the sort of myths and misunderstandings that we kind of allude to throughout the movie. I would love for them to know that they are worth something”
After I got off the phone I had the chance to watch the screener copy of the film that they had sent me. And wow… for an indy film (and I’ve seen my share of indy films) this movie is really good. Going into an indy film you kind of always expect low quality across the board. But technically speaking this movie was beautiful visually. For the most part the acting was good, with the exception of a couple roles/scenes. But hey, it’s a indy film so it’s kinda to be expected. The plot was solid and executed with understanding and respect to the subject matter. And while I did see one major plot twist coming it didn’t take away from the strength of the story. I definitely encourage everyone to check out this movie and share it with the teenagers and young adults in your lives!
If you guys want to check out the movie LITTLE MISS PERFECT will be released in North America on November 18 on iTunes and select theaters by Real Big Hits. Pre orders on iTunes are currently available (CLICK HERE TO PREORDER!)
LITTLE MISS PERFECT has enjoyed a successful festival run this year. It was nominated for “Best Feature Film” and took home the “Emerging Actress Award” at the Irvine International Film Festival. It went on to screen at the Director’s Guild of America NY, TCL Chinese Theater, Boston Int’l Film Festival, Soho Int’l Film Festival, HollyShorts, among others. Festival awards have included “Best Screenplay”, “Best Actress” and “Best Feature Film” with nominations for “Best Supporting Actress” and “Best Editing”. Most recently, the film took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature at the Awareness Film Festival and screens at the upcoming Ojai Film Festival.