This movie is smart and fun but the very first thing it asks of us as an audience – to believe that Emma Stone is a forgettable, undateable nonentity – is an outright lie. I’m sick and tired of movies asking us to ignore the very thing they’re relying on to sell us tickets: the smokin hotness of its star.
Why are we constantly asked to think of a gorgeous woman as an ugly duckling? How dumb does Hollywood think we are? That we somehow won’t see through the ponytail and glasses, or even some simple clumsiness, to see that it was FHM’s sexiest woman all along? A Hollywood script may occasionally call for plain jane, but no producer has ever hired one. Solution? Take a super model, put her hair in a bun, and dress her in paint-splattered overalls. Done.
Nonwallflower Emma Stone plays a virginal Olive, a high school student with an altruistic streak – to help certain male students out, she pretends to slut it up with them, dinging her own spotless reputation, in exchange for mere gift cards. For some reason, though she’s lovely and sassy and genuine, only the audience seems to know this. Even her best friend deserts her as here little scheme begins to snowball. Although modernly narrated in the form of a webcast, this movie constantly references great(er) teenage movies of the past. Though less angsty, there is a great debt to John Hughes here. And I don’t doubt that despite the high school setting, this movie in many ways is marketed towards the 30-somethings who will get those references. Olive, after all, wise beyond her years – precocious in every way but sexually.
Actually, the most interesting people in Olive’s world are the adults. On the rewatch, I’ve realized that my favourite bits of this movie are her parents, played by the absolutely brilliant Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. It’s almost shocking, amid all the seediness, to see Olive have such happy, healthy parents who clearly cherish and adore her. Her family life looms large, a real tribute to Olive’s generational tendency to have parents who are also friends. Especially convincing is the mother-daughter relationship where Clarkson sparkles as the honest, post-hippie parent. Every moment they are on-screen is preposterous and tongue-in-cheekily indulgent. It’s easy to see where Olive gets her cleverness and self-assuredness. If all high schoolers were as grounded as Olive seems, movies like this wouldn’t have an audience to go see it.
I thought it was a pretty fun movie too. Stone did look pretty good in this one, which yes, made it hard to believe she wasn’t popular or anything.
I really enjoyed this movie because it is funny and smart. However, my big beef with it is basically the same as you. Emma Stone is too old and too confident for the role. On top of that, Ally Michalka playing her bestie, and the girl who just can’t get a boyfriend is a ridiculous notion. As I wrote in my own review:
“Part of the charm of movies like Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club is that stars like Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy looked and felt like awkward teens relegated to high school’s lower social class, unsure whether they would ever blossom into the beautiful butterflies they so longed to be. It helped they were actually teenagers. Stone did a fine job with the role. She just can’t possibly give off that type of vibe. Her age, she’s 22 at the time, may have something to do with it. The natural confidence of someone already past the painful stages is difficult to contain. In addition, Michalka (also 22) as Rhiannon looks anything but the sexually frustrated, unable to get a boy co-ed we’re told she is. Let’s be honest, if she went to almost any high school in America looking the way she does here, she’d be constantly surrounded by an ever-widening swarm of athletes, rich kids, pretty boys and local college underclassmen. Beating them back with a stick might be a literal action for her instead of just a figure of speech.”
Still, I think the movie really works overall. So much so, it made the list of my favorite movies about virginity.
I love that you have a list of favourite movies about virginity, and that I’ve now given you occasion to whip it out.
And I agree that Molly Ringwald was made for those roles. Though not ugly or even plain by any means, she did have a certain relateability about her that didn’t alienate the very people the film is marketed to.
This is a very cute film but you’re so right about Emma Stone being too pretty for her role, though without her the movie wouldn’t be half the fun (or as good) it is. Likewise I love Clarkson and Tucci as her parents, best of all they really look like they could be her parents. That’s something that drives me crazy, when there are three actors who are suppose to comprise a family in a film and you think there is NO WAY those two people would have a kid that looked like that. Also Thomas Hayden Church is terrific as Emma’s favorite teacher.
Since the Svengali aspect is a key component of these kinds of films I doubt that film makers will ever stop casting the knockout as the ugly duckling just waiting to be turned into a swan since the audiences keep coming. Of course it doesn’t work both ways, in Can’t Buy Me Love when the nerdy guy paid the most popular girl in school to pretend they were dating Patrick Dempsey was a gawky beanpole. But then years later he grew into Dr. McDreamy so that should give gawky beanpoles hope I guess.
McDreamy still does nothing for me.
I love this movie (it even made me like that pocket full of sunshine song!). On the topic of non-ugly ugly ducklings in high school, I do think it’s pretty believable. I know that as older, wiser people we can plainly see that Emma Stone is hot, confident, and a total catch. But, at least in my high school, there were tons of girls of that caliber who never dated because they seemed “weird” to the “cool” guys and the “weird” guys didn’t really start dating, yet. I know that’s all too generalized and stereotypical. But my high school did have most of the stereotypes.
Haha, pocketful of sunshine. Total earworm. Thanks, Easy A!
LikeLiked by 1 person