Adam Taylor/Screen Gems
by Luke Y. Thompson | Thu., Sep. 16, 2010 5:15 PM
Adam Taylor/Screen Gems
Review in a Hurry: Emma Stone makes for a refreshingly believable high-schooler in this comedy that also takes on hypocritical societal double-standards toward gossip and sex. Yep, we're dealing with that extremely rare species: a big-studio movie aimed at teenage girls that's also smart and funny enough to please boyfriends and parents.
The Bigger Picture: Though it was an "easy A-minus" for us, that's not what the title means. The "A" in question is the one worn by Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter (don't worry if you haven't read this yet; the movie gives you an amusing short synopsis). Olive (Stone) isn't an adulteress, or even sexually active, but when her obnoxious BFF Rhiannon (Hellcats' Aly Michalka) becomes convinced that something big happened over the weekend, Olive lies and says she lost her virginity just to shut Rhiannon up. The opposite happens: Word spreads, and all of a sudden people start paying attention to Olive now that she's perceived as accessible.
Things escalate further when Olive's gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) gets her to agree to pretend that she also had sex with him, thus giving him instant straight-cred. And when Brandon blabs to friends about the favor, they also want in...and will pay handsomely for imaginary sex.
Olive soon realizes, however, that there's a fine line between being perceived as available versus being thought of as the school slut. The scarlet letter in question is ultimately incorporated into her wardrobe as a note of defiance.
After years of insufferable high school Cinderella stories, it's a delight to finally have Stone (whose talent was clear to anyone that saw The Rocker and/or Zombieland) assume the mantle of cinematic It Girl for the teen set. She may have made Maxim's Hot 100 list, but her appeal stems from a more grounded quality, not only delivering smart and snappy dialogue well, but also being believable as someone who could blend into the background in a school of more dolled-up stereotypes.
It's not all Stone's show, though. Thomas Haden Church is charming as the nice-guy teacher, and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are a riot as Olive's New Age boomer parents. In any other movie, these parents could have been one-dimensional pothead stereotypes, but in these accomplished hands they become something far weirder and funnier.
Only Malcolm McDowell as a one-note raging principal and Lisa Kudrow as a ditzy counselor don't quite work, with the actors falling back on their signature shticks too easily.
The 180—a Second Opinion: The constant references to the way things happen in other teen movies are a bit annoyingly self-conscious.
PHOTOS: Movie Premiere Pandemonium!
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