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The story is narrated by 14-year old Pauline Rieper through her Real Life diary entries from the time she meets Juliet Hulme, to when they create their own fantasy world, to when their impending separation causes them to believe Murder Is the Best Solution to their problems.
Contains the following tropes:
- Achey Scars: Pauline has a huge one on her leg; Juliet's are on her lungs.
- The Atoner: According to The Other Wiki, Pauline went on to start a riding school, which welcomes disabled children. Or did, until Pauline retired in 2009 and sold her house. These illustrations were found therein.
- Juliet, on the other hand, went on to become mystery author Anne Perry.
- Big Fancy House: Ilam, home of the Hulmes.
- Blood From the Mouth: Happens to Juliet.
- British Royal Family: The girls are supposed to write an essay on them; Juliet writes about the fictional royals of Borovnia. Pauline stands up for her by pointing out the assignment didn't specify which royals.
- The Cameo: The homeless guy Juliet hugs towards the beginning of the movie when she and Pauline are running out of the theater in joy is Peter Jackson.
- Chewing the Scenery: Kate Winslet goes into this area every now and again.
- Cure Your Gays
Doctor Bennett: Chances are she'll grow out of it. If not... well, medical science is progressing in leaps and bounds. There could be a breakthrough at any time!
- Dawson Casting: Averted. Melanie Lynskey was sixteen and Kate Winslet was seventeen, the same ages as their characters at the end of the film.
- Did Not Do the Research: At least one news article that showed up after Kate Winslet won her Oscar noted that her first film role was "an Australian school girl" (the movie takes place in New Zealand and Winlset's character is British).
- Averted hard by the movie itself. While there are a number of changes for dramatic effect (the Orson Welles film they saw wasn't The Third Man but Trent's Last Case (1954), which Jackson changed because Welles was heavily made up in the role in question), some of the diary entries were edited, a number of people were either omitted entirely (e.g. Pauline's severely disabled younger sister Rosemary) or condensed into single roles, many efforts were made to be as accurate as possible. Almost all of the named people in the movie were real, the principals have very accurate accents and strong physical resemblances to the real people, and wherever possible the real life locations were used, with the significant exception of the Rieper house, which had been torn down long before filming.
- Faux Documentary: The "Visit Christchurch!" film that begins the movie.
- The Fifties: The story takes place in 1954-55.
- Girls Love: One of the more disturbing examples really.
- He Also Did: The real Juliet Hulme later became moderately famous writing mystery novels under the name Anne Perry.
- I Have Many Names: Pauline Rieper, AKA Paul (for short), Charles (role-playing), Gina (preferred name), and Yvonne (middle name/family nickname) and Pauline Parker, after it's discovered that her parents never married, and Hilary Nathan, after being released from prison; Juliet Hulme, AKA Deborah ("Deborrah") as well as the alias she used after she's released from prison. Additionally, Pauline renames her lover from boring ol' John to Nicholas.
- Ill Girl: Both girls as children, but mainly Juliet.
- Imagine Spot: The girls imagine very violent things happening to a sanctimonious priest, a smarmy child psychologist, and their parents.
- Love Makes You Crazy And Evil
- Mad Love: It even has its own banner that explodes in blood!
- Made of Plasticine: The Borovnians. Literally.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Juliet
- Murder Is the Best Solution: In Pauline's mind, the only thing standing between her and living with the Hulmes is her mother.
- Ms. Imagination: Both Pauline and Juliet by quite a bit.
- Name's the Same: Both actresses later achieved fame as characters named Rose: Rose DeWitt-Buchater and Rose the stalker.
- New Years Resolution
- New Zealand Doubling: Averted, the entire film was shot on location in Christchurch, NZ. They even filmed where the actual murder took place. According to IMDB, it became eerily quiet when they started shooting, so they moved up a few paces until things felt comfortable. That's the actual tea shop in the park; when filming was completed, the tea shop was torn down so that it wouldn't become a Graceland.
- Even the actual 1950's Christchurch Girls' High School was used, despite the school itself moving from the City Centre to Riccarton in 1986.
- No Kill Like Overkill: Diello, the young prince of Borovnia, who kills pretty much everyone who isn't his parents.
- Parental Obliviousness
- Put on a Bus: How Juliet feels when her parents leave her in hospitals for her health while they go on business trips.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship
- Psycho Schoolgirl Lesbians: They appear to be this in the movie, but Anne Perry insists it was "only" a really intense two-girl friendship. (Pauline doesn't talk to the press.) The actresses were instructed to play the girls as "devoted friends" who were just role-playing love scenes between their favorite characters.
- Shout-Out: The photo of Orson Welles that floats away on the river is a homage to a scene from The Third Man; one of the photos in Pauline's room is the real Juliet Hulme.
- The Simpsons did an episode inspired by this story, with Lisa befriending a young girl named Juliet Hobbes. Together, the two girls invent the fantasy world of Equalia. Unlike Pauline, though, Lisa eventually decides she'd rather live in the real world.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent also did an episode inspired by this; the two girls are ballerinas and the crazier one even has the Portmanteau Couple Name of Paulette.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: While only peripherally involved in the story, short, stout, Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette Pauline has a tall, blond, glamorous-looking sister.
- Sock It to Them: The movie ends with a murder committed with a brick in a nylon stocking.
- Standard Fantasy Setting: Borovnia.
- Teens Are Monsters: Pauline and Juliet are fourteen and fifteen at the beginning of the film, sixteen and seventeen by the end.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, Pauline is taken to a child psychologist who concludes she's suffering from a mental disorder called "Homosexuality".
- Title Drop: During Pauline's poem.
- Unfortunate Names: Pauline Rieper especially after what she does to her mother.