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Little Women

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I don't know if it's technically the best, but my favorite adaptation is the 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, and Janet Leigh as Meg. I probably view it so fondly because it often aired around Christmas time on Canadian TV when I was a kid, so it has that nostalgia factor for me. I taped it and watched it many times. I always loved tomboy Jo jumping over fences and the girls putting on silly plays and everything with Beth and Mr. Laurence

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I don't think I've ever seen that one! It looks lovely; the setting is true to Concord: the houses, street and pastures. And June Allyson throws like a girl who knows how to throw. Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, though...it's not only that Amy is so famously fair. I understand that they were probably thinking, "You know, the pretty one." But Taylor wasn't pretty, she was gorgeous, and like Jo, a powerhouse. She was passionate, unconventional and opinionated: that came through whoever she played, especially characters allowed a devotion, such as Velvet Brown in National Velvet.

Not that anyone ever would or should have cast Taylor as Jo -- I'll go look up the movie now!

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Like so many, I too "grew up with" the 1949  June Allyson version as well.   I say "grew up with" because though I am Gen X,  it was really WAS the only version widely played on local TV around Christmastime before fancy cable appeared.   KTTV or KCOP in Los Angeles.  

Now of course in mentioning this, I was completely oblivious to the fact that there * was*  a 1978 prime time TV version of LW that was broadcast over 2 nights. 

It has been available on dvd for a few years and I first caught it at the local library.  Does anyone at all remember this?  

Part One:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GBqgNYgkkU      Part 2:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTiBwa_NJ1o

     This has one of the most " feminist" Lauries  I have ever seen. One that defies belief! lol  He actually voices his extreme  like of 

Spoiler

Jo's new haircut.

The other issue that really sticks out to me is the filming locale.  Possibly near the Little House locations for some.  During a particular picnic scene, the camera pulls back a wee too far and the California mountains are exposed. Hilarious!   

Edited by Wonkabar5 · Reason: Typo, LW, not LH
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Was this the one with Susan Dey as Jo and Eve Plumb as Beth? And then they made it into a series with Eve as a lookalike cousin?

Edited by chitowngirl

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Well,  considering the movie, I'm not surprised. lol

I think the word for all previous  adaptations, including 1994, is "cozy," and some with a very memorable  score. 

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Kate Hepburn (due to my mother's admiration and certainly her beauty) was a goddess in my home growing up so I don't think I looked twice at June Allyson (with her overbite and slight hint of a lisp) ... and Elizabeth Taylor "stealing" so many scenes with her slow delivery and traffic-stopping beauty.  I was stunned a few years ago seeing Allyson in a war movie -- "Battle Circus" -- paired with Humphrey Bogart -- by how effective she was as an actor.  (It's one of the early Korean war / MASH not-a-comedy movies).    

I also will try to track Allyson-as-Jo down because although I love(d) Hepburn, her forthrightness and strength really didn't work for me with Jo's ambivalence and insecurity in New York with Mr. Bahaer. 

As a girl, I liked Little Men (better and better for Hepburn) and most of all "Eight Cousins" (also spunky).  In the 1960's, there was a vast interest in utopian communities which led me to read a lot about Bronson Alcott -- a remarkable man -- and sympathize with Louisa in finding herself under the shadow of such a (bossy and fractious) man ....  Anyway, I suspect Allyson may have been better casting (though she struck me as a goody-two-shoes) but she was -- in memory -- the most centered and grounded member of the ensemble.  Thanks for the heads up. 

Edited by SusanSunflower · Reason: double space removal
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I'll stick my neck out and admit I love the Winona Ryder, Christian Bale version.  Like, @Wonkabar5 with her June Alyson version, it's become the movie I watch every Thanksgiving to get me in the holiday mood.  It's just so beautifully filmed and I like the casting for all the parts, particularly Claire Danes as Beth and Susan Sarandon as Marmie.

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Oh, I love and widely view the Ryder/Obscure version as well!  I own both the dvd and cd soundtrack- it is so memorable!  Very cohesive. 

It will be interesting to see if others here will feel the same way about the new version becoming "the" new classic  and one for "getting into the holiday mood" as JudyO mentions.

I tried to get into the Hepburn version, but I have only viewed it once. 

I even found a very inexpensive, old 1970 BBC Brit tv version on videotape and I could barely make it through. All that screeching from Angela Down. 

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8 hours ago, JudyObscure said:

I'll stick my neck out and admit I love the Winona Ryder, Christian Bale version.  Like, @Wonkabar5 with her June Alyson version, it's become the movie I watch every Thanksgiving to get me in the holiday mood.  It's just so beautifully filmed and I like the casting for all the parts, particularly Claire Danes as Beth and Susan Sarandon as Marmie.

I love that version. Gabriel Byrne as Professor Bhaer was the first time I totally agreed with Jo! And who can forget Baron Munchausen, John Neville as Mr. Laurence. 

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Gabriel Byrne as Bhaer -- the man not named Laurie; the man whose first name was Prof. -- was a risible and very, very welcome piece of inauthenticity.

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yes, it's "cheating" the story to make Bhaer so attractive .... like the various incarnations of Mr. Rochester ... Michael Fassbender / Toby Stevens versus Orson Welles / George C. Scott ... removing that  20+ year age gap and  Rochester's unpleasantly anti-social, even misanthropic tendencies and the story alters considerably ...  (Timothy Dalton as Rochester .... be still my heart!) 

http://pop-culturalist.com/ranking-rochester/

On the other hand, alpha-male and gorgeous Ralph Fiennes as as a particularly poisonous Heathcliff added considerable (and I thought helpful) dimension to that story ... Heathcliff was not just a bastard child of unknown origins, he was also a fiery and competent seize-the-day rival to the gentry 

eta:  Cathy (like Jo and the sisters) also has to transform from a heather-running girl into a socially appropriate woman and wife and I've always taken her ongoing affection (love, longing) for Heathcliff to be a longing for that freedom and innocence of childhood (free of class distinctions and worrying about paternity, and bloodlines, etc.) 

Edited by SusanSunflower
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On 3/28/2018 at 7:54 AM, JudyObscure said:

I'll stick my neck out and admit I love the Winona Ryder, Christian Bale version.  Like, @Wonkabar5 with her June Alyson version, it's become the movie I watch every Thanksgiving to get me in the holiday mood.  It's just so beautifully filmed and I like the casting for all the parts, particularly Claire Danes as Beth and Susan Sarandon as Marmie.

I grew up watching the 1949 version and never cared for it that much because Jo just looked so much older than the other girls! It also annoyed me that they switched the birth order of Amy and Beth.

I too think this one is gorgeously shot, especially some of the scenes which show the changing of the seasons. I also liked Trini Alvarado as Meg, (who I feel is often looked over) and Kirsten Dunst made a good young Amy. Loved Claire Danes and Ryder as well.

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Just like every version of Pride & Prejudice, I have space in my heart for all the Little Womens.  I can't even rank Jos, because each one (like all the Elizabeths) brings out a certain aspect of the character.  Ex: Kate's spirit; June's tomboy frankness; Winona's youth.

There should probably be a separate thread for the characters -- esp for Laurie v. Friedrich.  When I was a girl, that relationship irritated me, and seemed like the fanbase-baiting that Alcott claimed it was.

Later on in years, I get it.  The book even uses a euphemism for "sex appeal", and the Professor had it.  Which is why David Oakes (Ernst in Victoria) should've been cast.  Until then, Gabriel Byrne wins with Rossano Brazzi, second (check him out opposite original Jo in Summertime).

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4 hours ago, Constant Viewer said:

This would have been great! 

IKR????  Hey, I would totally run right over Maya Hawke (the new Jo) to jump into *that* man's arms.

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4 hours ago, dargosmydaddy said:

I've seen this at the UK pace and I have to disagree with the reviewer on this:
 

Quote

 

They were radical messages in Alcott’s time and reverberate louder today.

If only this production relayed them with faster pacing. The camera plods along, lingering on pretty shots of nature. A bee buzzes a flower. Snowflakes fall on a New England square. Brooks babble. It begins to feel less like a drama than a giveaway calendar.

 

I happen to be a person who appreciates shots that evoke the feel, the atmosphere of a place and time.  I thought it raced through some time frames - rather than wishing it would go even faster. Each to their own I guess.

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Christmas, 1861. The March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – prepare for a Christmas without presents or their father, a Union army chaplain who is away at war. Learning to appreciate the smaller things in life, the sisters strike up a friendship with their charming new neighbor Laurie, and his tutor John Brooke.

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Many of the reviews appear to be written by millennials who are pissed off to find that a Victorian woman wrote a book that featured Victorian values. (This is also a gripe I have with recent academic pieces.) 

Vanity Fair missed the point entirely.  I thought the NY Times got as close to a (IMHO) reasonable reax as any of them.

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Note: 

PBS is showing this as two episodes on TV (3 episodes online, for whatever reason): tonight's is one hour; next week's is two hours.  That's why I'm splitting the comments into 2 ep threads.  Set your DVRs accordingly!

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On 4/2/2018 at 12:37 AM, Constant Viewer said:

I grew up watching the 1949 version and never cared for it that much because Jo just looked so much older than the other girls! It also annoyed me that they switched the birth order of Amy and Beth.

I too think this one is gorgeously shot, especially some of the scenes which show the changing of the seasons. I also liked Trini Alvarado as Meg, (who I feel is often looked over) and Kirsten Dunst made a good young Amy. Loved Claire Danes and Ryder as well.

In the 1949 version Amy had boobs and that's just wrong.  I thought the 1994 version was practically perfect. I still cry when Hannah is strewing the rose petals on the bed.

Edited by anniebird
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Well.  There was a lot to like.  

I think Jonah Hauer-King's Laurie is my favorite.  While he's not precisely the young man I've carried in my heart all these years -- he's pretty close!  

Noting so far what this version has included from the book, that other versions haven't: 1. The boating party with the Vaughns.  I love that they gave Beth her moment with Frank,

Spoiler

which is as close to a romance as she was allowed to get.

And the giggling high spirits feel very true.

2. Marmee's temper.  Emily Watson is the crabbiest Mrs March yet, and I haven't decided how I feel about that, but I was glad to hear the convo with Jo about how her mother controls her own anger.  

Ugh to Amy's psycho book-burn.  A 12-year-old impulsively tossing a manuscript on an open fire, sure.  Feeding it a page at a time into the stove?  Not so much.

Happiest of all to see this as a collection of miniatures.  That's how Alcott told the story; that's part of why I cherish it.

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I’m liking this so far, but would Jo have used the phrase “mellow out” in the 1860s? (I honestly don’t know, but it sounds very modern). That aside, I do like how natural they all sound; my pet peeve of the 1990s movie was how stilted and misty they sounded, especially with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder, very naturalistic actors, in lead roles.

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Yes, "mellow out" jumped out at me, too.  And "soccer."

Spoiler

Amy seemed too old, but I guess they're not going to have an older Amy in the cast for when she gets married.

Edited by One Imaginary Girl
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11 hours ago, voiceover said:

I was glad to hear the convo with Jo about how her mother controls her own anger.  

I am just getting to the point where I can own my own rage, so this section was a reminder me how 'good' women aren't supposed to be angry, ever. Or at least appear to be angry.  I understand Marmee's struggle, but I disagree that rage isn't ours to have. Jo didn't 'lose her temper' over the loss of her book, she was quite rightly enraged by Amy's cruelty. I mean, if she were Zen, she should abandon her attachment to material things, but this wasn't a 'thing' so much as the product of her art and industriousness. And Amy took dead aim at it.

On the upside, there wasn't a bonnet in the group I wasn't coveting. Such lovely needlework on the hats and coat-sleeves!

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On 3/27/2018 at 12:54 AM, Cranberry said:

I don't know if it's technically the best, but my favorite adaptation is the 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, and Janet Leigh as Meg. I probably view it so fondly because it often aired around Christmas time on Canadian TV when I was a kid, so it has that nostalgia factor for me. I taped it and watched it many times. I always loved tomboy Jo jumping over fences and the girls putting on silly plays and everything with Beth and Mr. Laurence

I'm with you. I know it's all sorts of wrong - Elizabeth Taylor had what, 5-6 years on Margaret O'Brien? - but because I saw this as a little kid at Christmas, it is my nostalgic favorite. June Allyson was so feisty! And Peter Lawford as Laurie, yum. The scene between Mr. Lawrence and Beth about the piano still makes me farklempt. Margaret O'Brien could pull the heartstrings.

I posted this on the ep discussion - while I admire the artistry of the 1990s movie, I found the dialogoue very stilted. That, or Winona Ryder, the Reality Bites/Heathers malcontent goddess, was miscast. But I think Claire Danes was an excellent Beth.

Here's a blast from the past - anyone remember an NBC minseries starring Susan Dey as Jo? They tried to make a series out of it as well.

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I only lasted a few minutes.  I was tired and wary of another Masterpiece air-brushed all too pretty and neat and that's where I left it.   The "girls" seemed largely indistinguishable, although some were prettier than others.   Nuf.  For those who loved it, enjoy!!! 

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I'm not sure how I feel about this adaptation. It felt more like modern girls play acting at being girls in the 1860s. The camera work made me dizzy too.

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5 hours ago, One Imaginary Girl said:

Yes, "mellow out" jumped out at me, too.

Yeah, I read some interview with Heidi T. back in Dec. and she mentioned purposely changing some of Alcott's slang of the time (from the original 1868/9 editions,) to fit more modern audiences.  

Oh, forgot to include my dislike for the musical score.  Too choppy and not cohesive enough.  Seemed to take me "out of the moment" at times.  

Edited by Wonkabar5
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For most of it I was fairly certain I wasn't going to be back for part 2, but it came along a little at the end so I will give it a shot.  Compared to other versions I'm not really feeling a lot of heart, frankly.  The high spirited laughing seems way too forced and theatrical (the Schuyler sisters!)  I guess I'm used to the book and adaptations being great-big-curl-up-and-drop-into-a-shabbily-genteel-but-heartwarming-and-cosy-world, and this is a whirlwind of plot points.  

Beth's anxiety is nicely done, though I keep thinking "would it kill the rest of them to just walk her over to break the ice?" (Maybe not Amy)

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4 hours ago, LittleIggy said:

I’m terrible because my reaction to the poor German family was “Quit having kids you can’t feed”! ?

No effective or reliable birth control in those days I imagine.  I did find myself wondering where is the man who helped create this big family!?!

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On 5/13/2018 at 8:20 PM, voiceover said:

Well.  There was a lot to like.  

I think Jonah Hauer-King's Laurie is my favorite.  While he's not precisely the young man I've carried in my heart all these years -- he's pretty close!  

 

Agree!  Christian Bale is now a close second.

 

 

Quote
  Reveal hidden contents

which is as close to a romance as she was allowed to get.

And the giggling high spirits feel very true.

2. Marmee's temper.  Emily Watson is the crabbiest Mrs March yet, and

Ugh to Amy's psycho book-burn.  A 12-year-old impulsively .  Feeding it a page at a time into the stove?  Not so much.

Happiest of all to see this as a collection of miniatures.  That's how Alcott told the story; that's part of why I cherish it.

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8 hours ago, attica said:

this section was a reminder me how 'good' women aren't supposed to be angry, ever. Or at least appear to be angry.  I understand Marmee's struggle, but I disagree that rage isn't ours to have. Jo didn't 'lose her temper' over the loss of her book, she was quite rightly enraged by Amy's cruelty. I mean, if she were Zen, she should abandon her attachment to material things, but this wasn't a 'thing' so much as the product of her art and industriousness. And Amy took dead aim at it.

That's applying 21st century reasoning to the 19th century.  There's a lot women weren't supposed to do in public then, and publicly losing one's temper: right up there.  

But Marmee didn't tell Jo she was wrong to be angry.  No one did.  Jo actually *struck* her youngest sister in the first flush of temper, and wasn't chastised for it. But she cautioned her daughter about not letting "the sun go down on [her] anger" (frankly, still good advice).  This is a warning Jo doesn't heed, and her sulking nearly costs Amy her life.  It meant a great deal to Jo to find out that the mother she'd thought was perfect, shared one of her "worst" qualities.  

(I put "worst" in quotes, since obviously, easily expressed anger may be considered a virtue these days.)

Spoiler

Years later, Jo's openly opinionated ways cost her the chance of a lifetime.  Fair?  Not at all.  A product of the times?  Absolutely.

I disagree about the reason for Jo's (imho, righteous) anger: she expresses to Beth, quite eloquently, about what it takes to be a writer, and what is taken from you when the work is destroyed.  What's wrong with having a fit over the loss of her book?  

Of course, I also long to comfort her with the reminder that first drafts are always shit, and the second time around would assuredly be an improvement.

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On 5/13/2018 at 8:20 PM, voiceover said:

Well.  There was a lot to like.  

I think Jonah Hauer-King's Laurie is my favorite.  While he's not precisely the young man I've carried in my heart all these years -- he's pretty close!  

 

Agree!  Christian Bale is now a close second.

 

 

Quote
  Reveal hidden contents

which is as close to a romance as she was allowed to get.

And the giggling high spirits feel very true.

2. Marmee's temper.  Emily Watson is the crabbiest Mrs March yet, and

Ugh to Amy's psycho book-burn.  A 12-year-old impulsively .  Feeding it a page at a time into the stove?  Not so much.

Happiest of all to see this as a collection of miniatures.  That's how Alcott told the story; that's part of why I cherish it.

Another surprise - had no idea 'Jo' was the offspring of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.  She's pretty impressive.

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1 hour ago, Diana Berry said:

Another surprise - had no idea 'Jo' was the offspring of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.  She's pretty impressive.

She looks so much like her mom! I've never seen her in anything else, but I was also impressed with her performance. 

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I'm looking forward to the second half, which I'll certainly watch -- but I'd hoped to fall in love, and I haven't as yet. These books were truly formative for me, so I did have high hopes. 

I do like how closely they're staying to the book, because that's a huge pet peeve of mine. But something isn't ringing quite right as yet. Others have mentioned a lack of warmth, and maybe that's it. One thing is for sure -- I think it would have benefited from being longer with a slower pace. There was something frenetic about chapter after chapter whipping by in vignettes. It seemed to lose its heart in all the action.

Updating language (mellow out) is weird. Far better to let the book be what it is -- and to let the subtext be reflected so that the characters feel real, as the new Anne did.

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7 minutes ago, JTM said:

I think it would have benefited from being longer with a slower pace. There was something frenetic about chapter after chapter whipping by in vignettes. It seemed to lose its heart in all the action.

That was definitely how I felt about it. It took a while to adjust to these new actors and I did feel some of the warmth was missing, but I especially felt it was galloping through the story - and not for the better.

I didn't mind the updating of the language. Even back in my day (somewhere in the middle ages) I disliked the archaic turns of phrase. I wasn't sufficiently aware (at the time) of what those odd ways of speaking would have conveyed, so I believe a lot of young people these days would be put off if the language accurately reflected the times.  That makes it harder to see parallels with ones own life.

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1 hour ago, Zella said:

She looks so much like her mom! I've never seen her in anything else, but I was also impressed with her performance. 

Funny, I didn’t think she looked much like Uma.

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6 hours ago, LazyToaster said:

No effective or reliable birth control in those days I imagine.  I did find myself wondering where is the man who helped create this big family!?!

I know, but that scene made me fill Scroogey. Dad was probably out drinking away the rent money.

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30 minutes ago, LittleIggy said:

Funny, I didn’t think she looked much like Uma.

They're definitely not twins (and I don't think she is anywhere near as tall as her mother), but I think she has the lower half of her mother's face, especially her nose and mouth, and profile. In pictures of them together, it strikes me as especially noticeable.

I think she's actually a bit more conventionally attractive than Uma, who always alternated between looking really striking and really odd to me. I don't really see much of her dad in her face, but I am not as familiar with him. 

Edited to add: After staring intently at pictures of her with her dad, I can see more of a resemblance than I did. 

Edited by Zella
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Check out Ethan in Dead Poets Society.  I can see some of the same coltish mannerisms.  And they were close to the same age (19/20) during the productions of each.

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"Mellow out" sounds like a hippie saying, but it's actually late 1900s slang ("mellow" in this context meaning "ripen," or become softer and sweeter), so its use here is still anachronistic but isn't quite as bad as I thought!

(Although I just realized that while I was thinking of sometime between 1900-1909, often "1900s" means anything between 1900-1999, and "mellow out" may very well be from the '80s or something... in which case my defense of it is withdrawn.)

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8 hours ago, Zella said:

She looks so much like her mom! I've never seen her in anything else, but I was also impressed with her performance. 

i am the of the opposite opinion. i think she was terrible. her acting as far as speaking and her mannerisms. very jerky. then again, both of her parents are pretty b list though i'm sure she got the job because of connections. she actually ruined it for me. terrible actor. the other girls must be thinking how they could have done a better job as the lead if only they had powerful parents. 

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