Director: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone , Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes , Dan Byrd.
I used to be Snow White, but I drifted. – Mae West
I hate to do this to you but I’m torn. Fun film but ideologically problematic. Our lead actress Emma Stone rocks as Olive. She is funny, smart, edgy, powerful…so in contrast to the goody two-shoes clique – great. However, she actually espouses the same ideals as them but cloaked under coolness. In a sense, that’s worse because it’s hidden.
Plot: A clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing. (IMDB)
So, she PRETENDS to have sex with all these guys and appropriates the letter ‘A’ (stands for adultery, based on The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne.) which she wears for everyone to see. She gets chastised by the goody two-shoes for having sex.
Because she isn’t really having sex she is affirming their ideals. Look, I don’t want her to have sex with strangers but there is a major emphasis on chastity for teens in film. I think it is amazing that she embraces the ‘other’ but her otherness is really sameness.
The emphasis in this film is what the cool girl is not doing. Gossip hounds her and is fact in her high-school. It is always interesting for me to see youth-culture but this film perpetuates what I dislike – hypocrisy.
Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
In my book You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)
Unfortunately, in this film “difference” isn’t so different.
At the end of the film Olive’s love interest holds speakers over his head playing “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (a song written for the soundtrack to the film The Breakfast Club and performed by the band Simple Minds in 1985) parodying the boom-box scene in Say Anything…(1989)
There is a montage of John Hughes films. Olive wishes her life was an 80s movie directed by Hughes. She also wants a gratuitous musical number aka Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The film has one. I could count the pop culture references on one hand. Even though I thought this move towards 80s pop culture was admirable I wonder if it added to the film.
To be frank, for much of the film, I was bored. With the pop-culture references and raunchy chic you’d think I’d be entertained. It wasn’t badly directed, acted or edited but the story didn’t do it for me.
Dustin Rowles says, “In the end, you know it’s not a John Hughes comedy because Olive doesn’t fall over herself for another guy — there’s a love interest (Penn Badgley), but he’s practically a background character. She doesn’t get the gang together and devise a plan…It may be the Ferris Bueller of this generation, but make no mistake: It’s not Ferris Bueller.” (Pajiba – Scathing Reviews)
A person I was with said that THIS film should have been called Resident Evil. Yeah. In retrospect, the film was flat. I have to pan it.
Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.
If you wish to contact Romy Shiller, feel free to email her at [email protected].