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Up-and-comer Emma Roberts can handle adult dramas and teen fare with equal aplomb. This month, she gets romantic in Valentine’s Day.

EMMA ROBERTS — the smiley, 19-year-old starlet with the Disney-ready face — began her career with a surprisingly serious first role. The movie was Blow, which starred Johnny Depp as real-life 1970s drug lord George Jung. It was pretty heavy stuff for a girl who was just 10 years old at the time — heavy enough that her mother wouldn’t even allow her to see the film when it premiered.

In the years that followed, Roberts opted for decidedly more fun fare. Films such as Aquamarine and Nancy Drew won her scores of young fans, as did her hit Nickelodeon show, Unfabulous. But before she could get too comfortable in her tween-idol role, she pulled another 180, signing on to Lymelife and Twelve, two darker independent dramas about disease, drugs, and decadence.

Just when it seems that Roberts will zig, she zags. But her ability to effortlessly switch from serious to lighthearted roles and her penchant for mixing up the genres she’s working on have taken her far in her nearly decade-long career. Though she says she doesn’t consider whether a movie is independent or commercial to be a deciding factor (“If it’s good, I’ll want to do it,” she says), the eclectic collection of characters she has taken on has been a very conscious choice.

“I’d like to think I am always different in every role I play,” she says. “Whether it’s goody-two-shoes Nancy Drew or the ‘Long Island Lolita’ Adrianna in Lymelife, I always try to find something interesting and unique.”

This month, Roberts mixes things up again with Valentine’s Day, a feel-good romantic comedy with an exhaustive ensemble cast of A-listers such as Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Taylor Lautner, Shirley MacLaine, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, and Julia Roberts (who also happens to be Emma’s aunt). The film follows several singles and couples on the holiday as they cope with the pressures and realities of love. The younger Roberts plays Grace, an overachieving perfectionist who seeks to craft the ideal Valentine’s Day experience with her boyfriend.

“It is such a great story about people finding love in the most random of situations,” she says.

But despite her character’s preoccupations, Roberts says her own attitude toward February 14 is much more relaxed. “I think Valentine’s Day does have a lot of expectations and pressures, and it stresses everyone out. But at the same time, it’s a nice holiday. People think it’s about boyfriends and girlfriends, but it’s really just about love and being with people you love and who love you back,” she says. “I’ve never really had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. I usually just hang out [with friends], and we go out to dinner and have a girls’ night.”

While Roberts’s latest movie claims that love is the only shocking act left on the planet, she hopes to keep finding ways to surprise critics and fans alike with her multifacetedness. Whether her projects are blockbusters or independents, family friendly or rated R, Roberts is proving there’s nothing she can’t handle.


Big Love


What is it about love that brings the Hollywood elite out in spades? Valentine’s Day is just the latest in a series of superstar-studded romantic flicks.

FILM: Paris, je t’aime (2006)
PREMISE: Nearly two dozen famed directors — including the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, and Gus Van Sant — tell 18 stories of people searching for, finding, and losing love in the City of Light.
STARS: Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands, and Elijah Wood.

FILM: He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
PREMISE: Based on the book with the same title, this movie follows an interconnected group of characters struggling to realize that the people they’re in love with might not return their sentiments.
STARS: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, and Busy Philipps.

FILM: New York, I Love You (2009)
PREMISE: From prom dates to chance taxi encounters, this collection of short films — made by the producers of Paris, je t’aime — documents first, fleeting, and everlasting passions.
STARS: Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, James Caan, Hayden Christensen, Ethan Hawke, Shia LaBeouf, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Christina Ricci, and Robin Wright Penn.