Actress Jena Malone is best known as the girl with two mommies Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon from 1998's Stepmom. Now 17, she'd like to move past that. "Naturally, without the audience watching, we grow!" she tells TV Guide Online. "I'm changing and I would hope that [my] roles would accommodate themselves to that. It's important to not just be stereotyped as the child, the daughter."
Malone has far meatier material in Jodie Foster's The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (opening Friday). She plays Margie, a Catholic teen whose first love with a schoolmate (Emile Hirsch) is tainted she feels guilty for having lost her virginity to her own brother. In an ambiguous twist, it seems her incestuous affair may have been consensual, not rape.
"It's definitely up to the audience to decide," Malone explains. "Coming into it, I wanted to show this complex female who was not a victim, who was taking full responsibility and accountability for all of her actions.
"With sexuality," she adds, "a young woman is supposed to be the prey, the victim. You're supposed to be scared. What I loved about this film is that Margie isn't. It's easier to depict young girls as victims, because it's hard to think of them being in control of their own sexuality. This is a harder path, but a stronger choice."
Unlike other coming-of-age movies like the 1986 classic Stand by Me Altar Boys gives equal play to the feminine perspective. "This film shows what it's like to be a 14-year-old girl," Malone enthuses. "Young boys wear their hearts, their passions and desires on their sleeves. With girls, it's much more of an internal conflict. There's repression and things they're not allowed to feel. It's important to show both sides."