Here’s another recent one. I saw it not too long ago, but didn’t get a chance to write up a review. Now that classes are ending, I have time to catch up on my reviewing.
On the surface, this teen comedy was entertaining, but nowhere near appropriate for young children. It spins the story of high school girl Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) who lies to her best friend (played by Alyson Michalka) that she had lost her virginity. This is overheard by a classmate (Amanda Bynes), and spreads around the school with physics-defying speed. Soon, the school’s Christian group, led by Bynes’s character, start a movement against her for being a slut. Gay student Brandon (the very cute Dan Byrd) asks her for help “blending in”, i.e. trying to pass as a heterosexual. Olive has pretend-sex with him at a party, which only fuels the rumors.
When other “losers” find out what she did for Brandon, they ask her to do the same for them. Fat kids, geeks and assorted dweebs pay her to say she had sex with them. It completely ruins her image, and she begins to identify with Hester Prynne from Hawthorne novel The Scarlet Letter, who was shunned by society for adultery and forced to wear a red letter A on her chest. Taking a page out of that book, Olive sews a scarlet letter onto her own (increasingly provocative) outfits in defiance of those who think poorly of her.
However, her resolve wears thin. Soon, the mocking and protests take a toll on her self esteem until she begins to believe the rumors herself. Distraught, she eventually tricks the entire school into viewing her webcam, thinking she’s going to strip. Instead they find her sitting at her desk, fully clothed, telling the story of her fall from grace.
In here there’s also a love story. In a flashback, she is shown as a child playing “seven minutes in heaven” with Todd (Penn Badgley), who isn’t ready for his first kiss. She lies for him, telling everybody that they did kiss. He never forgot that, and so he refuses to believe what people say about her. As everyone else hates her more and more, he finds himself falling in love. After she tells her story to the entire school, he whisks her away just like they did in 1980s coming-of-age movies.
Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life.
Stylistically, it seems to want to emulate the 80s teen movies it mentions. However, it falls significantly short here. While those films generally had some sort of lesson to teach, this was pure drama for drama’s sake. There was no Breakfast Club moment where the characters realized they had been wrong about each other. The references were superficial, at best. It does, however, give a good indication of what those movies might have been like had they been made today. A little less meaning, a lot more attitude.
Overall, I enjoyed it. The DVD is coming out on 21 August, just in time for the holiday season. If you were raised on the Brat Pack, you should enjoy this. If you weren’t, I would still suggest adding it to your Blockbuster or Netflix queues.
Emma Stone was the clear breakout star here. She did an absolutely fantastic job with what the writers gave her, and she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress (Comedy/Musical). Her performance here has landed her some big upcoming roles, including one opposite Steve Carrel, and the female lead for the reboot of Spiderman currently in production. Expect to see lots of her in the future.