A for not-quite-Awesome
This latest self-referential, incisive, teenage rom-com boasts a star-studded case and zippy script, which is just as well. Stanley Tucci (providing all the LOLs in the movie), Patricia Clarkson and Malcolm McDowell lend excellent support to Zombieland‘s Emma Stone whose huskily-voiced observations carry an otherwise fairly hollow story along at quite a pace.
Stone plays Olive, a supposedly mousey outcast at high school, who inadvertently concocts a plan to become “somebody” by letting people think she’s sleeping with half the school. Part-Good Samaritan (Olive’s “conquests” are all no-hopers who pay her to go along with stories that will enhance their reputations, while tarnishing hers), Olive freely admits her own motivation at first is simply to get attention. Even if it’s the wrong kind which might scupper her chances of being with good-natured, unquestionning Todd (“Gossip Girl”s Penn Badgley, playing, er, “Gossip Girl”s Dan Humphrey, complete with literary witticisms).
Stone/Olive is a vivacious redhead, not remotely mousey – so suspension of disbelief is crucial here. Similarly, in some instances the cross-referencing to contemporary culture (an homage to John Hughes’ films, mention of Facebook, a fleeting comment about “Gossip Girl” – thankfully not by Penn Badgley himself) serves on the one hand to ground the film in a reality we can all appreciate, but also break down the 4th wall. The script is zingy and there are plenty of hilarious moments, and Stone is utterly charming as our protaganist. However, the story is propped up by hyperbolic caricatures of Christian fundamentalism (not clever or new, so simply not funny any more) and a slightly cringy subplot involving Lisa Kudrow’s guidance counsellor, played the same as every character Kudrow’s ever done. There is never any tension between Olive and her kooky, supportive parents, her wise and witty teacher (welcome back Thomas Haden Church!) or hunky Todd. So the enjoyment resides in the performances, which, as heralded above, are thankfully terrific.
The movie seems to strive for a place in the hallowed hall of fame that includes Pretty in Pink and the seminal Breakfast Club, but I doubt it will live long in people’s memories. It is an enjoyable piece of fluff, however, and we can expect an onwards-and-upwards rise of Emma Stone’s fame. Get her while she’s hot.