It’s very hard to describe this film in a way that does it justice. For one thing, the plot sounds contrived and ridiculous. But it’s actually a very likable movie with an appealing cast of characters and some fine actors in the roles.
Emma Stone plays Olive, a high school student whom no one pays much attention to until a rumor labels her a slut, at which point guys start talking to her and her high school’s leading religious arbiter, a student played by Amanda Bynes, decides she needs to be both saved and expelled.
(Incidentally, some might think that this character’s exaggerated notions of purity would be inconsistent with the remarkably short skirts she wears in some scenes, but this overlooks the idea of character complexity, and besides, anybody who objects to Amanda Bynes in a microskirt clearly holds unsound views.)
Olive initially tries to play down her unwanted false reputation, though she’s also glad to finally be noticed. When a closeted gay male classmate, a victim of violent bullying, begs her to pretend that they’ve had sex so he can keep up a pretext of being straight, she reluctantly agrees, and even has some over-the-top fun with it. Next a fat guy who’s a friend of the gay character asks her to let him say they made out, and she feels so sorry for him that she consents. So her slutty reputation grows, and very soon even her best friend (partly out of shame, partly out of jealousy) won’t talk to her.
It’s routine in films of this sort for parents to be cartoon idiots, but Olive’s parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) are nearly ideal — smart, witty, and ready to help, but not at all intrusive. The guy she’s had a semi-secret crush on at least since middle school is close to perfect as well. All of which might seem ridiculous if it weren’t so original.
The script, by Bert V. Royal (who reportedly wrote all but that last ten pages in five days), is both funny and tightly plotted. You have to pay attention to catch all the interconnections. Early on Olive wants her life to be like a John Hughes movie, and the nice guy boyfriend reenacts several climactic John Hughes moments for her near the end. The school’s mascot, originally a Blue Devil, was replaced by a Woodchuck under pressure from Amanda Bynes’s religion club, but there’s a reversion at the end. Our heroine even gets her Ferris Bueller-style production number that’s just as implausible as she wanted it to be. It’s a quite impressive one, too. If only there had been some way to make it a duet with Amanda Bynes…
Here are two takes on the trailer, the second version showing us what it would have been like as a Disney cartoon. Update: And alas that second version of the trailer is no longer available.