Title: The Twins Hit Hollywood
Tagline: There’s no business like show business… [Wing: I may say this almost every time the publisher uses an ellipses in the tagline, but damn does that make this sound like a murder mystery to come.] [Dove: They’re just out of ideas at this point. Some of the later ones just go with “Meet Jessica and Elizabeth before High School!” even though we’ve had 100+ books to do just that.]
Summary: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield have the chance to star on the big screen! They were such a hit in the Corny O’s cereal commercial that the director has asked them to try out for his next movie.
The girls are shocked to see so many other twins at the audition… and nobody is friendly. The Gilbert twins put sneezing powder in the Parker twins’ clothes. The Parker twins mix ketchup in with the Gilbert twins’ blusher. And when Elizabeth and Jessica become the Parker twins prime targets, the Wakefields have only one choice. They’ve got to play dirty, too! [Wing: This happens every other book, if not more often. Where have you been, ghostie?]
This will not be the murder mystery of my dreams, or even of my slight hopes, but I will persevere to find the joy in it despite that flaw.
[Dove: Um, I’m past initial thoughts at this point, but I am listening to Raven lose his shit over the book and he’s only two pages in.]
[Raven: So much sloppiness in this book…]
The book starts with Steven shoveling cereal into his mouth while reading the comics and ignoring the twins. We’re off to a smashing start. Apparently they only have nineteen more boxes of their lifetime supply. I’m going to take this as a dig at Steven the Human Garbage Disposal.
This “peaceful” morning is broken by Jessica screaming over news that came via letter and then Elizabeth screaming, too, when she reads it: Paul Tremont, the talent scout, recommended them to Star Quality Casting (god, the names in this series) and SQC wants the twins to audition for “a major motion picture.”
Oh boy, Jessica’s going to run with that. In fact, I bet she’s already on the phone with Lila, probably not even done screaming yet.
Steven POV, he wants to skip school but he won’t risk missing basketball practice the next day, he is annoyed by his sisters especially overly-dramatic Jessica wearing their mother’s high heeled sandals, I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care. And no one should care, this scene is absolutely pointless. Jessica is ridiculous with fashion: we know that. Steven is annoyed by his sisters’ excitement over things: we know that. Steven is all food and basketball: we know that. Jessica is going to be over the top about this audition thing: we know that.
At lunch, Jessica regales the Unicorns with her news and is just as delightfully obnoxious over it as I imagined. Mandy is excited for her, Tamara Chase (fuck you Tamara Chase?) is envious, Lila snaps that she’s not in the movie yet because of course she does, never change you competitive best friends.
Jessica thinks about an interview she saw with actor Connie Boyer, who believes that you can’t have friends in show business and that’s good and right because friends are just dead weight.
Oh, good, I can see our Lesson of the Day coming from here.
Meanwhile, Team Boring learns about the audition because Jessica has dressed so bizarrely that Elizabeth has no choice (…suuuuure) but to tell them about it. Maria, our beloved child actor, speaks highly of Star Quality (no, seriously, that name). [Raven: Talking of names, for some reason Maria Slater is called Maria Hughes. That’s some sloppy bullshit right there.]
Elizabeth is less excited about the opportunity and more worried about how Jessica will get carried away, like she always does. Fair worry, that, but you’d think Liz would be used to it all by now. [Dove: It’s like… after twelve years of watching her sister, she’s just getting ready to grasp her sister’s MO.]
She’s also worried about herself, because back during that Corny O’s commercial, she got just as weird as Jessica, and Maria says that show biz brings out the worst in people.
Elizabeth knew that the slightest whiff of show business turned her sister into a lunatic who would stop at nothing to get a part. She would take any chance, use any trick. It was actually kind of scary.
And the scariest part, Elizabeth thought, was that Jessica’s lunacy seemed to be contagious.
Ned drops the twins off for their audition and does not go with them. Does not go with them into a strange building in Los Angeles in a neighbourhood full of converted warehouses.
…the fuck? I know parenting is shit in Sweet Valley, but this is the same Ned who didn’t want to let them ride a bus to visit their cousin. Yet he’s just fine with this potential child trafficking setup. Okay. [Raven: He’s also pretty much fine with them getting the bus back home on their own.]
Jessica has made the twins dress alike (hair with a flip, bell bottoms, glitter laces in tennis shoes — bell bottoms? Really? I didn’t think the series was at the point where bell bottoms would be popular again, but maybe), but she refuses to wear those wild sunglasses. [Dove: This about tracks with UK fashion. This book came out in 1997, by which point I was wearing bootcut pants all day every day, and friends of mine had gone that next step and bought bellbottoms.]
So instead she gives Elizabeth a tarantula. In the most believable and even-handed response of her life, Elizabeth stomps it to death.
Right before she realises that it’s fake eyelashes.
I stand by my reasonable and even-handed statement, though. Why is it always spiders? [Raven: I refuse to believe Elizabeth would mistake a false eyelash for a fucking TARANTULA.]
Jessica is shocked to see how many twins (though not all identical) have gathered for the audition. Because, of course, the Wakefields are the only twins with acting talent in the whole entire world. I love you, Jessica Wakefield, never change.
They meet Tammy and Louise. They’ve been “on the twin circuit” for awhile now, acting in all sorts of commercials, tv shows, and made-for-tv movies. The twin circuit sounds like something very different, something Steven would be interested in, I’m sure. T&L talk shit about the other sets of twins, especially the ones who are fraternal or the ones who aren’t even the same height (one twin is at least 2 inches taller than the other, which is a noticeable difference; I expected it to be more of an exaggeration in the insult) or the ones who are too young or too old or the ones who are different weights (between the two siblings, not between that set of twins and other sets of twins, this isn’t fat hate — not yet, at least, though since this is Sweet Valley…).
T&L have been working in New York before now; they are new to California and haven’t auditioned for Star Quality before, either.
Two hours later, Elizabeth is completely disillusioned with the audition process. Both twins thought they’d be greeted by a decision maker as soon as they arrived, audition quickly, and be done (be cast, in Jessica’s mind), but obviously this twin cattle call audition is a lot different and not nearly as focused on the inherent specialness of the Wakefield twins, to their dismay.
Elizabeth, you are just as snobby as your sister sometimes.
The Wakefields get called back for round two the next day along with:
Jenny and Tricia Pearman (beautiful, deep, clear emerald green eyes).
Raquel and Casey Carver (shiny brown hair).
T&L (gossips, as we’ve seen and not just been told).
I’m so glad we’ve learned a lot of useful information about the competition. [Raven: SPOILERS! It’s all useful.]
Over the next few days, the sets of twins will need to show off singing, dancing, and dramatic capabilities and shoot test film. T&L are starting to look like vicious sharks whose smiles don’t reach their eyes. No one saw that coming, I’m sure.
You know, there are now too many sets of twins whose names I will never remember, in part because I’m bad with names, even character names, and in part because they exist merely to cause trouble for Jess and Liz. Be prepared to join me in having no idea which character is doing what. It’ll be a fun mess for all of us.
A twin tries to cut Jess’ hair and would have gotten away with it but for Liz noticing she was carrying scissors. Real subtle.
T&L aren’t shocked and tell them that it’s the “oldest trick in the show biz twin book.” Good lord.
Liz and Jess take the bus home from auditions (… really? So why did Ned drive them there and also I still do not believe that Ned and Alice are letting them take a bus all the way back to Sweet Valley after letting them spend hours alone in a child trafficking setup. Even as terrible as parents are in Sweet Valley, that doesn’t really clock with the weird overprotectiveness we’ve seen from them other times [Dove: But they got their periods, remember? Now they are mature enough to travel anywhere without adults.]), and Elizabeth decides she’s going to quit because she’s scared they’ll turn into people like the ones they’ve been seeing, the ones who don’t care about other people’s feelings, who don’t care about anything but getting the part.
Jessica, of course, thinks that’s a good thing.
Later, Jessica manipulates Elizabeth into agreeing to go back the next day by crying at her after they’ve been fighting over it. Where’s your spine, Liz?
The next day is dance day, and the Wakefields wear matching blue and black diamond pattern leotards, blue tights with coordinating slouch socks, and black jazz shoes.
I am dying a little at that outfit. So cheesy and so adorable.
(Though I’m shocked Jessica isn’t forcing them into purple.)
T&L are in pink and lavender. Huh, wonder if that’s close enough to Unicorn purple for Jessica to try to cut it off them. (In Steven’s dreams.)
Everyone learns a dance combination to a medley of some of Elizabeth’s favourite Broadway show tunes. I wonder which ones are her favourites; I had no idea she had any favourites when it came to Broadway show tunes.
(I’ll have to give some thought to what my favourites would be. Readers?) [Dove: Not really a musical person. So, like three songs from Oliver! and the entire soundtrack from Book of Mormon, if that counts? I am now picturing the twins dancing to Spooky Mormon Hell Dream (sorry, had to go with an animated version because of copyright). It’s exquisite.] [Raven: I’d go something from Rocky Horror or Little Shop of Horrors for mine, or Book of Mormon of course. Or maybe The Whole Being Dead Thing from Beetlejuice The Musical.]
Most of them get criticism, Elizabeth gets praise and daydreams about being a lead dancer in a 1930s musical — right up until she slips and takes out the entire second row of dancers. Except Elizabeth realises right quick that she was actually tripped.
When she tells Jessica, Jessica’s immediate response is for the twins to take out that set of twins in retaliation. Good lord, this could be a boon for murder equipment suppliers and secret burial products. The Mercandy backyard will end up full sooner than we thought. [Dove: But the zombie apocalypse we dream of will be delightfully symmetrical.]
One of the twins who have been messing with Elizabeth during the dancing loses a coloured contact; Elizabeth finds it first and almost gives it back to her, but then T steps on it and Elizabeth decides not to say anything because that twin has been such a shit to her.
Elizabeth was right to be worried about how it would change them — oh, wait, no, they and all their friends in Sweet Valley already do shit like this regularly. We’re back to that point Dove (I think) made awhile back, which is that it’s difficult to feel like an antagonist character is doing terrible things when it is pretty close to what the protagonists do all the damn time.
Elizabeth and Jessica do a great job with the last of the dancing; they and T&L are the only pairs to make it to the next round of auditions. (Also, there are far more sets of twins there for this round than we read about earlier, so it’s even more names just thrown at us for now good reason.) [Raven: No, they said there were eight pairs in this round of the audition. They just didn’t name them all.]
Jessica daydreams about how Lila will have to treat her like a queen and the coolest person in the world once she’s a movie star and Lila is nothing but Jessica’s subservient assistant, and I am dying. Johnny Buck sends her gifts, Jessica lives in a Beverly Hills mansion complete with a huge carousel unicorn, Lila is still apparently rich but for some reason her assistant so she can learn to be cool, Lila fails to get Jessica’s cucumber slices the right temperature, I cannot with this, Jessica. I cannot.
Elizabeth daydreams about being hardboiled 1930s newspaper reporters with Todd (uh, why is she so into the 1930s right now?). She steals a story right out from under him, because it pays to be tough and look out for yourself in the 1930s newspaper business.
Much less hilarious than Jessica’s daydream, and I am still struck by why she’s suddenly all 1930s all the time.
Still, hardboiled newspaper AU, I’d read that. [Raven: Rarity Investigates!]
Liz and Jess try to brainstorm ways that T&L might sabotage them; eventually they go to Steven for ideas, because of course they do. (Actually, this might be the most logical use for him ever.) He’s sick with a cold, but they risk it to talk to him (and bribe him with the promise of the most expensive high-performance car on the market which they will of course easily be able to afford once they get the part).
Oh, wait, no, they want Steven to go infect T&L with his cold, as if they’d get infected and show symptoms that quickly. This’ll teach me to read too fast and expect some sort of logic. [Dove: This is not the greatest subplot to read during the Years of Captain Tripps.]
Alice busts Steven when he tries to leave the house, though, and orders him back to bed.
The twins next bribe him with a ski condo, a snowmobile, a beach house, and a surfboard.
For someone who is well aware how often Jessica lies, her plans go askew, and she never repays her debts, he is certainly taking a lot of things on faith here. [Raven: I liked how Steven played the meta card of telling Elizabeth that they might as well humour Jessica becuase she always gets her way in the end.]
Steven climbs out the window and they follow him to T&L’s yard. T&L leave the house just as they arrive, though, and the Wakefields follow them to Chad’s Burgers. Liz and Jess try to direct Steven’s actions from where they are “hiding” outside near the windows.
Steven sneezes around T&L, drives them to another table, Jess annoys him until he tries again and then T&L get him thrown out. Literally. He lands in garbage. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so trite. (Okay, no, it’s still funny, because Steven.)
Back home, Jess and Liz find a gift basket filled with chocolates, fancy teas, and two big bottles of expensive shampoo and conditioner, with a note from Star Quality Casting thanking them for their hard work and telling them that the “specially formulated hair product” will bring out their natural highlights and help their hair not look so dull like it did in the test film, so they should use it Wednesday before their audition.
Oh good lord, are you two really going to fall for this?
AND YES, YES THEY DO.
Jessica decides to use the shampoo and conditioner IMMEDIATELY and, of course, they are actually filled with black goo that is thick as tar.
How in the world did you not notice that before you put it on your hair, Jess? Do you pour directly from the bottle onto the top of your head?! What a waste of product that would be.
(Informal reader poll: Do you not pour your shampoo/conditioner/body wash/whatever you use on your hair into your hands before you put it in your hair?) [Dove: Hands first. What kind of idiot pours directly onto their scalp?] [Raven: Hands first, and I don’t even have hair.]
It takes three hairdressers two hours to get tar and black dye out of Jessica’s hair and off her face and forearms.
This, of course, leads to practical joke war.
The Wakefields send a false script to T&L with a note saying they need to have their screams sound as authentic as possible; if they practice them, Jessica is certain their voices will be dead by Wednesday.
T&L call to “wish them luck” right before the Wakefields’ scripts show up from Star Quality. The Wakefields realise this means that T&L will know their script is fake, and I’m curious as to how the fuck they didn’t think about this part before? They know actual scripts are coming! Also, how will they know if these are the real scripts? It’s a conundrum.
Of a sort.
They stay up far too late trying to memorise their lines. This leads to Elizabeth having a nightmare about Alice getting covered in the black goo by mistake. Steven wakes her from her dream, and outside they hear the worst catfight, yowling that keeps the twins awake, though Steven can’t hear any of it if he closes his door. (Though he certainly heard Elizabeth’s screaming.)
The twins are exhausted the next morning, look terrible, and fight over Jessica’s struggles with learning her lines. I’m surprised Jess is the one struggling; she certainly has more acting experience than Elizabeth does.
That night, the cats are back on the rampage and Elizabeth is tired enough that she cries real tears during their practice. When it starts raining, the cat fight noises change and Liz gets skeptical enough to go see what’s happening. You couldn’t have thought about this before? You two are not made for this sort of sabotage; I’m surprised Steven hasn’t mentioned even the possibility that the cats are not real cats but instead an attempt to keep them awake.
(Also, why haven’t any of the neighbours complained? Ned and Alice are in a drunken stupor, maybe, but…)
It is, of course, a tape and not real cats. You idiots.
The Wakefields watch a movie with T&L starring in it. The twins are great singers and actors, apparently, and the story is about how their main character drives away everyone in her life with her petulance and using them to get what she wants in her acting career, and though she becomes a famous star, she ends up miserable and alone.
Good lord, ghostie, could you be piling this on any thicker?
Liz wants to drop out of the audition because T&L are so good; Jess wants to destroy them so the Wakefields will be better. They compromise by agreeing to do their very best and see what happens.
Liz and Jess compliment them on their performance in Lights Out, and T&L are not pleased by the compliments, they look “malevolent” even, which is a delightful word.
OH, DAMN. Apparently Lights Out was four years ago, the piano player points out because he worked on the soundtrack, and the casting agent realises this means T&L are older than she thought. They are 16 and over the age limit.
I AM DYING.
This means that Jess and Liz get the part by default. Uh, that’s … one way to get it, I suppose. [Dove: The same year this came out, 27 year old Charisma Carpenter was cast as 17 year old Cordelia Chase. And I’ve never met anyone who thought that was a bad thing. #JustSayin.]
They’ll be in the movie with Connie Boyer, and Jess loses her shit over that, of course.
Working on a movie is a lot more complicated than a commercial, though, and Jess and Liz are both overwhelmed by it. They have a month of filming and lots of major scenes.
Jess is thrilled to meet Connie Boyer, even when Connie is rude as fuck to her. Some of the crew warn her away from Connie, and Jess tries to convince herself that she can’t take it personally, Connie is known for being rude and obnoxious and it made her a big star, so it has to work for her.
Connie later throws a fit when she sees Liz in a white sailor suit, the first costume she’s wearing for a test shot — Connie gets her way and forces them to change the script from the twins being determined to be a part of the WWII Navy USO show to the Army USO show because Connie looks good in green.
Pro tip: Almost no one looks good in army green, Connie. You should know this.
After all sorts of changes are made to script, costumes, and setting, the Wakefields meet Harriet, the writer. They eat lunch together, and Liz finds her incredibly interesting and asks her a number of questions that Harriet is happy to answer.
Connie is even shittier during filming (she won’t even block the scene before they start, which seems a little over the top, but god forbid we get subtlety in the writing here). She even gets both twins written out of the scene because she won’t work around them. [Raven: Connie is a delight.]
And then the twins learn they’ll have an on-set teacher. Surely this should have come up during the earlier discussions, but okay, whatever, surprise.
Two weeks later, the twins haven’t even been in one scene yet because Connie is arguing with everyone all the time. Jess continues to defend her and says that Connie is trying to make the movie the best it can be. Oh, Jess, you fool.
Both girls are starting to miss their friends, though (even if Jess is also starting to miss the way people look at the Unicorns with envy and a desire to be one of them — or at least the Unicorns think so).
That day, the girls are working on the big dance number. Their costumes are khaki tights, white t-shirts, and combat boots, and Jessica loves them. That doesn’t really sound like the kind of costume she would love [Dove: We’re in the Jess loves Doc Martens phase of writing, which is completely implausible, but very recurrent.], and also Connie threw a fit earlier about the girls not being in white, so what the fuck happened with that t-shirt, but it does sound like a cute scene.
The dance rehearsal itself goes very well, but Connie decides the twins are too blonde, they undercut the drama of her own blonde hair, and so they have to become brunettes.
It’s a rinse and the hairdresser promises it will wash out in a few weeks. In my experience, no it will not, but good luck, girls.
People (including Connie’s assistant) are quitting, the shoot is running over schedule and therefore over budget, Connie continues to be a shit to everyone, and she cuts the twins out of the dance completely.
Even Jessica finally admits that Connie is terrible.
Steven takes himself to the set to help his sisters, but the security guard won’t let him on because no one on set recognises his name and they don’t listen when Liz tries to explain. I’m shocked that he wasn’t allowed to just walk on the set, to be honest, the way these books go.
Connie ends up in a good mood because she just found out she’ll be on the cover of Vanity Galore so they rush to shoot the hospital scene while she’s happy. This is one of Jess’s biggest scenes, and she’s determined to do it well, but oh, even in a good mood, Connie is a shit.
She decides their blue-green eyes are too dramatic with their dark hair and they need brown contacts.
Good god, Connie.
Jess shouts right back at Connie, Steven sneaks onto the set and gets caught, Jess literally climbs over Connie trying to get to Steven before the guards hurt him, and they end up talking to the executive producer.
Who can’t do anything about Connie, because she owns 51% of the production. She created a movie project for herself because she couldn’t get any roles other than horror films due to her attitude.
Man, horror films do not deserve her.
The twins try to quit, but they’ll be in breach of contract, nor can the amount of homework be lessened, but the twins are pleased that Steven tried to come to their rescue.
Harriet the writer does rescue them from having to write another essay, though, by offering them some scriptwriting tips and teaching them to write a scene.
Liz and Jess both miss their friends by this point, they haven’t talked to any of them in more than two weeks, and they’re even ready to go back to school.
And the twins decide it’s time to start undermining Connie.
They bring Harriet in on it and when Harriet keeps talking about how young and cute the twins are and how that upstages Connie and they really should cast older twins instead who won’t be so appealing onscreen, Connie takes the bait and fires them.
Steven convinces the exec producer to give them a night of star treatment to make them feel better, so they get a black studio limo to take them and their friends to a basketball game, and then a party, and then to Teen Trend, a Hollywood club for teens.
I’m betting most of that group is too young for even a teen club in Hollywood, but cool, why not. [Raven: Pretty sure Big Name Executive Producer could pull strings as it’s his treat.]
The movie gets terrible reviews, they never once saw T&L in the scenes even though their names were in the credits, and the Wakefields get a lot of money for the days they did work as the exec producer tried to make it up to them.
They even get to keep some of the costumes and Jess wears the white velvet sailor suit to watch the movie. Good lord, Wakefield.
And in regular last-few-lines-of-the-book foreshadowing, Cammi Adams studies far too much and Jess can’t relate to anyone who does extra math problems for fun.
What is up with the pacing?! I know it’s not been good in a number of books, but this one felt particularly off. As always, the ending was rushed; there were a few places early on that could have been cut (that one early Steven scene in particular) so that there were at least a few paragraphs more to give to the end of the movie rather than the basic outline that makes up the last few pages.
This was cuter than I expected, though shallow and connie in particular was over the top. Too many names thrown at us in too short a space during auditions, though there wasn’t any room to really develop anyone (and no reason to other than T&L, of course), but it was still name soup.
Solid meh from me on this one. Still confused by Liz’s 1930s obsession.
[Dove: This book is the reason that Connie Boyer is my go-to name for female actresses that Jessica likes, even though I always remember she hates her by the end. Jessica doesn’t really stan women. Um, Connie was a toxic mess and I actually loved the heavy-handedness of every meltdown she had on set, like when she refused to block the scene, but because it was unrehearsed, she found a twin underfoot, or the scenes when she’s in hospital very sick, and all she can do is scream about how the twins are blocking her light. It’s ridiculous and amusing, but the book also retconned a lot of stuff – surnames were wrong, the outcome of the advert filmed in the previous book was completely changed, so it doesn’t make sense. Basically, not a great book.]
[Raven: Like Dove, I thought this was decent enough, apart from the sloppiness of Maria Huges and the weird way they changed the ending of the last book. The wierd Twin War thing was a bit silly, especially before the audition whittled down to the final two pairs. Maybe if any of them actually had parental chaperones at the audition, things would have been different. I thought the movie scenes were all good fun, and Connie Boyer was a fine Comedy Ogre that was just the right shade of OTT. A decent payoff for the two books in which she’s had a major influence.]