Elizabeth Olsen: Hollywood gets young women wrong


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There is no shortage of young women on the big screen these days, with the ‘Twilight’ movies in full flower and Disney Channel ‘it’ girls like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez solidifying their move into features.

But at least one emerging actress from that demographic says that the abundance of personalities doesn’t mean Hollywood accurately portrays women in their late teens and early 20s.


Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Olsen, the star of Sundance hit ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ (more on that film, which looks to be a breakout this fall, in the weeks to come), says she feels frustrated by what she sees as Hollywood’s binary depictions of young women.

‘A lot of times with female relationships and young women [in the movies], it’s either ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ or catty b--,’ Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, said this week over lunch in New York, where she lives and attends college. ‘I just have a problem with that. They’re supposed to be either as perfect as how they’re portrayed on Disney or as mean as they’re portrayed in high school movies. And in real life it’s neither of those.’

Her own solution, she said, has been to take on a new role, in a movie called ‘Very Good Girls,’ that she believes avoids both cliches. A dramatic comedy from Naomi Foner (mother of Maggie Gyllenhaal and screenwriter of ‘Running on Empty’), ‘Girls’ will star Olsen and Dakota Fanning as teenagers the summer after they graduate from high school.

‘This is a very real story of two best friends, about a real and very raw relationship, and the healthy way that young women interact with each other,’ Olsen said. (She dismissed the early log line, which had the two lead characters each seeking to lose her virginity, as being unrepresentative of Foner’s script. ‘That happens in the movie, and that’s fine for a log line, but that’s not really what it’s about,’ Olsen said.)

The Sean Durkin-directed ‘Martha Marcy,’ which follows a young girl in the weeks after she escapes from a cult, opens Oct. 21, and the Fox Searchlight film is likely to garner its young star some Oscar buzz. While the films marks Olsen’s screen debut and is certainly the most anticipated of her upcoming features, it’s hardly the only place she’ll appear: The 22-year-old has already shot four other films, including the dramatic comedy ‘Peace, Love and Misunderstanding’ opposite Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, and she plays Josh Radnor’s younger friend and love interest in the college-set ‘Liberal Arts.’

‘Good Girls’ was scheduled for an early fall shoot, working around Olsen’s class schedule as a senior at New York University, but now may not happen right away, conceded Olsen. In part, she intimated, that’s because of the same frustrations that prompted her to take the role in the first place. ‘It’s difficult,’ Olsen said. ‘A lot of people don’t want to finance movies like that. Unless, of course, there are vampires or something weird that can animorph.’



Martha Marcy May Marlene breaks out--and faces some obstacles

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins: This year’s Sundance It Girl?

Selena Gomez starts to move away from her Disney roots--sort of

— Steven Zeitchik, reporting from New York