mikhael and autumn were the kind of whimsical souls that made for great storytelling, but weren't so delightful to live with 24/7 as they would have been as, say, characters on a quirky netflix comedy. but then, the former travelling musicians didn't have netflix, because television was destroying society as they knew it with its commercialism and unrealistic beauty standards. they had settled down in ester, a town with a population of less than 3000, to raise their family as close to off-the-grid as possible, and admittedly did a good job of teaching their children life skills that they may not have learned elsewhere - all four of them learned the basics of hunting, fishing, and successfully living off the land at an early age, and they were surrounded by art and culture - real art, their parents would insist, not that bunk on tv. mikhael and autumn were confident that should anything ever happen to either of them, their offspring would still be able to get along just fine. after all, little stone had just deescalated that encounter with a bear last week.
melanie didn't really care about whether or not she would stand a chance in a fight against a bear. she just wanted internet.
the lodges could only truly monitor their children when they were within eyesight, and though they were homeschooled, they were still given plenty of opportunities for interacting with their neighbors - some of whom shared their family's ideals, some who were more liberal about what they would allow their children to be influenced by. melanie relished the hours spent at her friends' houses who had unlimited access to television and computers; once she was old enough to secure a work permit, she got a job doing clerical work at the town library (not without some protesting from her parents, who were only convinced by her insistence that it would help her build a work ethic) just to have access to the technology there. the more she read and studied, the more convinced she became that the only way she'd ever be satisfied would be to get out of her tiny town. the only problem was that getting out was a lot easier said than done without the money to faciliate the actual act of getting out.
beauty pageants went against nearly everything the lodges stood for, with the unavoidable focus on the participants' looks and buckets of money that contestants notoriously had to invest before even starting to rise up in the ranks. but melanie was determined, and sunk all of the money she had made working at the library into getting just enough to get her by, even if it wasn't always up to the standards of her competitors. what she lacked in experience, she made up for ambition, as she spent late nights at her friends' houses using their school laptops for research and practiced her q&a responses while working in her family's garden. when she came home with her first pageant crown as proof of her efforts, her parents were furious that she had gone behind their backs to pursue something so superficial. that anger would end up paling in comparison to the next big announcement she had for them: she had been accepted to college, one in california. and she was going, whether they liked it or not.
of course, a few pageant titles and the paltry wages she'd managed to pull together working at the library were hardly enough to pay for her plane ticket out of the state and her schoolbooks, much less four years tuition. grants and scholarships won through the pageants circuit helped, and financial assistance took care of a bit more, but melanie would end up taking out loans to pay for school, where she studied psychology and linguistics with the goal of eventually combining the two. in between classes, she worked in the school administrative office to ensure she'd have enough money to eat. when that was no longer enough, she took the advice of a friend from pageants and started taking modeling gigs. from standing perfectly still for an hour in a figure drawing class to putting on her tightest dress and showing off a new car for sale to sitting for shady photographers who found her online through model mayhem and promised only "tasteful" nudity, she rarely turned down a job, no matter how questionable. after all, there were few other means of getting money. she didn't have time for a second steady job on top of class, and she certainly wasn't going to be getting any money from her parents. hell, she couldn't even get a return phone call from her parents.
it was a question from a friend of a friend at a party after a long shoot that ended up being a turning point for melanie: "have you ever thought about doing movies? not porn, i mean - unless you're interested in doing porn, because if you are i know a guy, but have you ever thought about doing movie movies?" she hadn't, at least not seriously, but a name and number scribbled onto her arm that night led her to an audition the next week, which did not lead to her being cast but did lead to another audition, which led to the same run-around a few (or several) handfuls' more times before she did manage to get lucky, landing a role in the eccentric comedy kaboom. before she could even truly wrap her head around it, she was being flown out to cannes for its premiere, plunging her headfirst into a world of photocalls and red carpets, borrowed designer gowns and silent repeated mantras reminding herself that the very reason she had made it this far to begin with was because she'd trained herself well on not sounding like an idiot.
even if she wasn't truly fooling herself, she did a reasonable job of fooling everyone else; she next signed on for the sundance-debuted martha marcy may marlene, which premiered to largely positive reviews, particularly of her powerhouse performance. she continued to impress, primarily on the indie and festival circuit, and was lauded for both her professionality on set and the innate understanding she seemed to have when she immersed herself in a role. she may not have been professionally trained, but she got people. a new career high came with the film short term 12, which received widespread critical acclaim and secured melissa's position as not just an indie darling, but an actress with potential to succeed in the mainstream.
as it turned out, she would do just that. melanie's decision to join the fifty shades of grey franchise went over well with essentially no one, with fans of the books bemoaning she wasn't one of the well-known names they had desired and fans of her own insisting she was killing her career by signing on for what, given the source material, could only end up being a terrible mistake. for melanie, who had no strong feelings toward the book one way or the other, the franchise meant financial stability and an increased visibility to new potential directors, which took priority over whether she loved the script or not. a love of art wouldn't keep a roof over her head or pay her bills. besides, it was just three movies, not a life sentence. even when the reviews began to come in almost unanimously declaring it her worst work yet as an actress, melanie was at peace; her name was on people's lips, and she was receiving more calls and scripts coming her way than ever. what was there to complain about?
it wasn't until she began being turned down for roles for being too known, too commercial, no longer a fresh face on the scene, that she realized she might not have it as made as she originally had thought. there was still work out there, of course, but the directors behind scripts she loved were passing on her, looking for something beyond anastasia steele. not to be dettered, melanie vowed to prove herself (again, she would mutter resignedly) as an actress beyond the franchise, come hell or high water. she just needed to find the right film to prove herself.
with her recent performance in logan lucky receiving good reviews, filming for the remaining fifty shades movie behind her and a promising line-up slated for the next few years, it seems that melanie might be on her way having her ducks back in a row. only time will tell whether she still has the same spark that drew people to her when her career began, but rest assured: if she doesn't, she'll find a new one, bought, bartered, or stolen. in her eyes, she doesn't have any other choice.
vox lux (2018) ... celeste
the house that jack built (2018) ... riley keough's role
fifty shades freed (2018) ... anastasia steele
under the silver lake (2017) ... sarah
logan lucky (2017) ... mellie logan
fifty shades darker (2017) ... anastasia steele
frank & lola (2016) ... lola
digging for fire (2015) ... max
fifty shades of grey (2015) ... anastasia steele
that awkward moment (2014) ... ellie
about alex (2014) ... kate
the spectacular now (2013) ... cassidy
short term 12 (2013) ... grace
breathe in (2013) ... lauren reynolds
smashed (2012) ... millie
peace, love, & misunderstanding (2011) ... zoe hudson
martha marcy may marlene (2011) ... martha
kaboom (2010) ... stella
"rollercoaster" by bleachers (2014) ... stefanie michova's role
★ has a bad habit of attempting to analyze and compartmentalize her friends and costars; it comes from a place of wanting to understand how best to deal with them, but it's not hard to tell when she's digging because she's not shy or subtle about it
★ has retained several off-beat but occasionally handy habits from her childhood - she can easily gut and clean several animals, quickly start a fire in a variety of unpleasant circumstances, and can identify and catagorize a large number of plants on sight
★ won the role of grace in short term 12 after sharing her personal experience of working at a group home as part of her psychology studies at stanford
★ connects strongly with characters and pieces of work but is ambivalent about whether or not she has a true "love" for acting. likes that she's found a lucrative career and all she had to do to get it was sacrifice her right to privacy
★ keeps tabs on her family through old friends in the ester/fairbanks area, but has more or less given up on trying to contact her parents directly. has attempted to send them money on several occasions, but the checks go uncashed
lacking the true effortless energy, likable relatability, and store of charming anecdotes to make it as a commercial success on celebrity alone but considered as having "abandoned" the grittier indies upon which she built her career, melanie rests in a middling ground where she is neither particularly loved nor disdained. she's regarded as intelligent and well-spoken - if not altogether forthcoming, and occasionally a little pretentious - in interviews, and is spoken of favorably by most who have worked with her. she doesn't have a negative relationship with the paparazzi, but also doesn't do anything exciting enough for them to pay her any considerable amount of attention unless they already happen to be on the scene. mel is still trying to figure out exactly who her ideal demographic is; when she does, she might be able to focus in on winning them over. until then, as long as she doesn't know who she's trying to impress, she lives mostly to please herself, catering her decisions to her ambitions rather than to what people will think.
mikhael, father, 54woodworker, musician, violin maker. believes in hard work, good music, respecting your elders, and very little else.
autumn, mother, 53artist and jewelry designer. social butterfly. likes to get her hands dirty. has a slight flair for the dramatic.
stone, brother, 31bar owner. basically a walking good guy greg meme. the only family member who still regularly talks to her.
willow, sister, 27homemaker. mother of three. has no interest in leaving ester. has less interest in letting melanie meet her nieces and nephew.
jackson, brother, 23anti-mining activist and liberal hothead. will either end up with a successful future in politics or in jail.