Like my obsession with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, my love of cheesy, direct-to-VHS movies starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (otherwise known as MK-and-A, because true fandom always reserves the right to abbreviate) is undying. So I was floored and bizarrely excited to discover that their little sister, Lizzie Olsen (the “Elizabeth” in their Elizabeth and James clothing label) is being called this year’s break-out Sundance Festival star.
Back to the twins: they are two years older than me, so I grew up watching them perform and believing they were the coolest, prettiest, most talented girls ever.
Even so, I can’t quite explain what the appeal of that sclock-fest Full House was, nor why I thought purchasing MK-and-A endorsed hair tools was a good idea (crimping your hair is never a good idea), nor why I bought their eponymously titled tween magazine. I won’t even get into how much I looked forward to networks re-running Double, Double, Toil and Trouble around Halloween (Cloris Leachman was in it, so that’s my excuse now).
For a while (namely late 90s, early 2000s), you couldn’t go into any big-box retail store without an MK-and-A branded doll or lipgloss or poster in your face. The sisters suffered from classic overexposure–their cottage house industry of random products kept their company, DualStar Entertainment, raking in millions, but the older they got, the more discerning their audience grew and the more their acting projects flopped.
I never saw the short-lived sitcom Two of a Kind, but it was universally panned. I did pay $8 to sit through their last, big, feature-length film, New York Minute. Every time the girls shrieked inappropriately, mumbled through dialogue, ran in heels, or exploited the stereotypical “twin dichotomy” of the cool one (Mark-Kate) vs. the prissy one (Ashley), my inner, die-hard fan wilted a little.
Thankfully, after MK-and-A graduated high school and entered short-lived academic careers at NYU, their images and career choices changed dramatically–twin-themed movies were out and innate fashion sense was in. I can’t in all good conscience wish for them to return to acting, since I’m no longer sure they’re particularly good at it, and since Mary-Kate’s had this to say about her shiny, rich childhood:
I look at old photos of me, and I don’t feel connected to them at all … I wouldn’t wish my upbringing on anyone.
So I’m glad that MK-and-A seem to have found their bliss and are no longer being forced to dance and sing like “little monkey performers” (Mary-Kate’s words, not mine), but that won’t stop me from gloating over their sister Lizzie! Who actually knows how to deliver lines and move her face non-woodenly! And who looks remarkably and kind of off-puttingly like MK-and-A!
Lizzie’s earliest credits are cameos in her sisters’ kid movies, including Our First Video, a painful-to-watch collection of songs with saccharine titles like “I Am the Cute One.” She also appeared as “Girl in car” in How the West Was Fun, which I recall being gut-bustingly funny, but then again, I was 6 and wanted Michelangelo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, to be my boyfriend.
I browsed YouTube looking for said cameos, but gave up after watching a terrifying rendition of a song called “Brother for Sale.” There was a juggling clown and a unicyclist, you guys. It was too much.
Then Lizzie fell off the grid for about 15 years. This year’s Sundance Festival sees her coming from out of nowhere to sweep the “beautiful, mysterious ingenue” title previously held by Carrie Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence. Two films in which she stars are getting lots of buzz–Silent House, a one-shot horror endeavor that follows Lizzie’s attempts to escape from a creepy house (you can watch a clip here), and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which transcends its tongue-twister of a name to be a positively received emotional thriller about a cult escapee.
Quite frankly, both these films sounds 100% up my alley in terms of my taste in movies. Tense, emotionally gripping horror that doesn’t involve too much slashing? Yes, please. Anything about cults? I’ll be doubling down, thanks.
I guess, in actuality, my excitement about Mini-Olsen’s acting debut is more related to the seemingly high quality of her work, and less concerned with her DNA, but it’s still fun to reminisce about her older sisters and how awesome it was when I had a sleepover at my friend’s house and we watched You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Sleepover Party. Or how stoked I was to own a pair of MK-and-A Wal-Mart label, butterfly-adorned capris.
So I propose the whole internet momentarily freak out about Lizzie Olsen stepping into the spotlight (actually, that already appears to be happening), swap stories about how many MK-and-A paperbacks we collected, and then let it go. “Discovering” another Olsen sister merits a little bit of fan-girling, after all.
At least we’ll always have this: