December 23, 2010 -- With whip-smart dialog and an interesting premise, along with homages to the legendary John Hughes (who would be proud of this film), this high school sex comedy is way above average for this lowly movie genre. It's also loaded with acting talent, including Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church and Malcolm McDowell, playing smart adults, instead of the usual moronic characters that pass for adult roles in these kinds of films.
Emma Stone of “Zombieland” plays Olive, virginal high school student who lies about having sex with an older boy in order to deal with the persistent inquiries of her stupid, pushy friend, Rhiannon Abernathy (Aly Michalka of “Bandslam”). The conversation is overheard and Olive's reputation goes in the tank. A funny thing happens, though, while Olive is now referred to as a slut, at least she is being noticed. Before, she went under the school's radar because she was merely pretty and smart.
Because of Olive's new visibility and reputation, she is eventually approached by another friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd) who asks her to pretend she is his girlfriend so the other boys in school will stop harassing him. He is gay. His plan is to pretend to be straight so he can survive high school and get on with his life. Olive agrees and the two stage a simulated sex scene at a party. Eventually Brandon tells a friend what really happened and he, too, approaches Olive with a similar deal. Other offers come pouring in. She is offered money, coupons, gift cards and other items in return for help in enhancing the reputation of a number of high school boys. Things get out of hand when one boy tries to treat her as a real prostitute. Olive needs to set the record straight, but only one boy wants to help her, Todd, the school's woodchuck mascot (Penn Badgley of “John Tucker Must Die”).
Olive and Todd figure out a way to publicize a webcast which will allow Olive to set the record straight. They use a school pep rally as a stage to get the word out. This message is set up with a musical number, one of the film's several homages to Hughes. The entire story is actually told in flashback interspersed with webcam segments recounting the various story chapters, each with its own heading. The story structure works very well. Tucci and Clarkson, who play Olive's parents, are impossibly witty, funny, charming, quirky people. They aren't believable at all, but they are a lot of fun to watch. Olive is even more fun to watch, thanks to a very lively and varied performance by Stone. Olive is a very smart character, as are Brandon and Todd. Thomas Hayden Church (“Sideways”) plays Mr. Griffith, one of Olive's teachers, who is teaching them about Nathaniel Hawthorne's “The Scarlet Letter,” which is a major theme of the film. Olive even wears the scarlet A on her chest, as a part of wardrobes that are like those worn by prostitutes. Mr. Griffith is very smart. He knows what is going on with Olive, but doesn't know what is going on with his wife (Lisa Kudrow of “Bandslam”) the school guidance counselor.
A whole other subplot involves Mrs. Griffith and Marianne (Amanda Bynes of “Hairspray”) and Marianne's boyfriend, who has been in high school several years too long. Marianne, a Christian hypocrite, hates Olive and wants to force her out of school. This conflict erupts into a couple of romantic triangles, real and imagined. It turns out the worst female in school is an adult, not a student. Olive's best friend, Rhiannon Abernathy, turns against her and joins a group of students picketing her. Things get ugly before the final reckoning, but the film never abandons its sense of humor. This film rates a B+.
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