Being a normal, slightly pessimistic, whiny, intolerant teenager, one wishes that their life was directed by none other than John Hughes. A legend and landmark director, Hughes managed to define a generation without stereotyping them or belittling their ideals, and did so by presenting realistic storylines and situations. So, if life is so tumultuous, one might as well have some professional handling thing “up there”.
That seems to be the wish and desire of one Olive Penderghast, a normal teenager in public school whose notoriety is to a minimum at the beginning of the film. That is to say, she is virtually invisible. Luckily, the whole “finding yourself” clichéd plotline does not beleaguer the film. Instead, we get to see Olive make a fool of herself and watch as she makes stupid decisions (with good intent) and watch as she is guilt ridden, much like a real teen. As heartless as teens are made out to be as a species, we do experience guilt every so often.
It all started with a small rumor, in which Olive tells her best friend Rih (Aly Michalka, in a notably raunchier role than Disney would approve of) that she lost her virginity to some guy named George, who does not even exist. And the rumor spreads like wildfire, as rumors do in high school. Here, the director Ivan Reitman decides to speed up the process by following the rumor in its tracks. While it may be nauseating for some, it’s all around fascinating. This is a good 15 years after Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, a good 30 after the films of John Hughes, and 7 after mean Girls. The Rumors are the same, but the method by which they are passed has evolved.
And from there, she meets a boy named Brandon, sweet as he is, he is incredibly gay. He is bullied by everyone, tormented by his fellow students, and he decides to ask Olive to lie for him. Instead of merely saying that they had sex, Olive makes her lie a bit more elaborate. The stage is set at a popular girl’s party, and they make it as bombastically fake and over exaggerated sequestered in a room, as possible. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what your kids are up to: having fake sex. Or not. Or something. (You know, I actually have no idea what your kids are up to. Just don’t watch Skins.)
And the web of lies becomes more elaborate and more “profitable”, as she is able to take bribes from poor schmucks who can’t get laid any other way than lying about a previous, albeit brief encounter. And as the rumors fly, instead of cowering because of her newfound reputation as a hussy, she plays it up by dressing like one too, with a scarlet letter embroidered to her questionable top. “Give them what they want, and then leave them asking for more” as they say on the stage. And as the story progresses, her rep bites her in the ass and not only does she become the most sought after female in her school, she also becomes one of the most hated. And she hates that. Feeling sorry for herself for something she got herself into.
This last bit is kind of annoying. What did she expect? But besides this, the film rolls smoothly along with clever and snarky dialogue. Emma Stone is incredibly charming as the sarcastic, biting Olive, and her eyes and delivery enhance the performance. She handles the biting sarcasm well. But as memorable as the screenplay is, it bears scant resemblance to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, from which it is loosely adapted. The resemblance to the classic is a scant as the clothes covering Emma Stone’s body.
My only real problem is really a critical one. I just find the story morally regnant. The film epitomizes what I hate about my generation. Its loose views on sex and that sex means nothing…but the acting is good. I was, however, disappointed by the lack of substance in the film. Olive’s parents were probably the funniest, with Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci nailing every line. The interaction between Stone and her parents is undeniably realistic. Perhaps the reason why I didn’t like this film was because it was too realistic. Otherwise, it was fairly amusing.
The music is fun and ranges from classics like “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” from Say Anything to a new rendition of "We Go Together" from Grease and it pays delightful homage to the films that Olive wants to live in. The music is really fits the atmosphere of the film. Cinematography may not be the main aim of the film, but the color palette, a warm and sunny tone, suits the California based film. The acting is great, with another highlight being Amanda Bynes playing the uptight Christian zealot, whose quest to call Olive as many names meaning “slut” as possible and whose uppity, pretentious religious views remind me of pas experiences I’ve had with people. Top notch ad very funny!
In a generation where sex is anything goes, this film fits the bill. Although the dialogue and the screenplay aren’t nearly as memorable as other teen films, and the storyline wasn’t as nearly relative to The Scarlet letter as it was claimed to be, it’s an amusing breezy movie. Maybe it’s better for people to claim they had sex and not actually do it, maybe it’s not. But, like all teens, all we want is John Hughes to direct our lives, if only for a while.