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January 27, 2011 at 09:22 PM EST

Image Credit: TURE LILLEGRAVEN FOR EWKind of like a female Pinocchio, all Emma Roberts wants to be is a real girl.

The actress (who turns 20 in February) has snooped around as Nancy Drew, kept a mermaid in Aquamarine, and maintained a Hotel for Dogs, but Roberts tells EW that she rarely gets to play a normal person her own age. (In last year’s dramedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story, she came close — but even that character was more emotionally damaged than “normal.”) Her character in the Sundance drama Homework is perhaps even more normal than she is, given that she’s actor Eric Roberts’ daughter and Julia Roberts’ niece. 

In the coming-of-age story, she plays a high-school party girl whose unexpected depth inspires a nihilist classmate (Finding Neverland‘s Freddie Highmore), who has a talent for art and massive crush on her. He decides to change his self-destructive ways and find a way to graduate, hoping it will lead to a way to be with her. Michael Angarano plays his mentor artist, Blair Underwood their no-nonsense principal, and Sam Robards and Elizabeth Reaser co-star as two immature parents. It’s the first feature film from writer-director Gavin Weisen, who joined his two young stars at the EW studio in Park City:

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