Little Miss Perfect, a powerful drama written and directed by Marlee Roberts, focuses on the serious issue of teenagers struggling with eating disorders. “Little Miss Perfect” is available on iTunes and select theaters by Real Big Hits on Nov. 18. The film shines a light on a serious subject in the form of a fascinating drama about a complex young woman struggling with her inner demons and an illusionary pursuit of perfection.
Karlee Roberts, the director’s younger sister, stars as Belle, a teenager who discovers an online pro-eating disorder subculture, and begins to starve herself in the pursuit of her ideal of perfection. The movie focuses on a serious problem faced by many teenagers and one that is rarely discussed, but which the film brings out in the open as the first step in treatment.
“This is the most personal film I will get to make,” the director told me, adding that, like Belle, she “had a lot of the risk factors and mentality of someone with an eating disorder.”
“I was a young girl who felt a lot of pressures who really wanted control over some aspect of my life, and when I encountered the sort of online community of girls who also felt that way, it was very intriguing.”
She didn’t understand what the site was promoting at first. “What is it I’m looking at? What am I seeing?” was her initial reaction. She discovered this secret community and realized the site tried to promote the disorder and not recovery, that they viewed it as a lifestyle choice. If people would just talk about this problem, “then none of these secret communities would be necessary” and the next step, treatment and education, could follow.
“I also saw eating disorders in many different movies and subplots, and they’re generally never focused on the psychological or behavioral aspects” of the condition,” the director told me. “We are dealing with a girl who has a mental disorder, and it is talking about mental health. That, I think, is still very taboo. People don’t really want to say they have a mental illness because people look at them and they don’t understand what that means.”
Ms. Roberts told me she hopes teenagers who see “Little Miss Perfect” will realize their self-worth and self-esteem, an important step in recovery.
As for casting her sister as Belle, Marlee said. “I wrote it with her in mind.” Karlee turned 14 on the set and completed high school at age 15. “She’s kind of like her character, overambitious and puts a little too much pressure on herself,” said the director, adding, “Karlee has a very genuine, sensitive quality about her.”
Marlee Roberts noted the film was also inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast. “The Beast has to learn to love someone. In this film, Belle has to learn to love herself.”
Karlee, who is only 16 and studying film at Columbia, told me of working with her sister, “It was awesome to have her as the director because she knows the way in which I work, and it was easy to get ideas across and communicate ideas. It was a really awesome experience.”
The young actress said she researched eating disorders, watched documentaries about anorexia, and spoke to people who had had the disorder to prepare for the role. “I really hope that I portrayed an accurate presentation of that and really shined a light on what they’re going through.”
She also said that she hoped teenagers realized they were not alone in their challenges. “Everyone has a struggle or an imperfection or a lot of pressure thrown at them, and that it’s okay not to have to please everyone.”
In addition to Karlee, the terrific cast includes Isabella Palmieri (Confessions of a Shopaholic), Lilla Crawford (Into the Woods), Tom Degnan (Limitless), Peter Rini (Orange is the New Black), and Jeremy Fernandez (Team Toonz).
“Little Miss Perfect” does much to de-stigmatize this mental health taboo and open up a much-needed discussion, so I hope it is widely seen by teenagers.
From the press release: “Little Miss Perfect” has made the festival circuit this year and 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. http://www.littlemissperfectmovie.com/
About Marlee Roberts: A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Marlee produced over twenty projects since 2010. Her feature directorial debut Little Miss Perfect has received many accolades and awards including “Best Screenplay” and “Best Feature Film” at various film festivals. Roberts was dubbed a “Big Screen Filmmaker” on the cover of 201 Magazine‘s April 2016 issue and has been featured in other major publications including Backstage, The Examiner,and Fox 5 News. She has appeared on a number of panels at film festivals to discuss topics such as “Breaking into the Business” and “Women in Film”. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors, New York Women in Film and Television, Women in Film, and the Women in Moving Pictures Society and currently in development for her next film.