2010 Certificate: 15


Emma Stone hits the comedy A-list as Olive Prendegast, an anonymous student who becomes the centre of attention by pretending to be the school floozy. But once the rumour mill gets going, it's impossible to stop. With a pitch-perfect cast putting a smart, contemporary spin on Nathaniel Hawthorne's literary classic The Scarlet Letter, A's more than okay. In fact, it's hard to think of a sharper, funnier dissection of teenage peer pressure and its consequences. Spread the word.


  • Will Gluck


  • Emma Stone

  • Amanda Bynes

  • Stanley Tucci

  • Thomas Haden Church

  • Patricia Clarkson

  • Malcolm McDowell

  • Lisa Kudrow


Hollywood has a fine tradition of transferring classic stories of yore to modern-day high schools: The Taming Of The Shrew became 10 Things I Hate About You, Les Liaisons Dangereuses begat Cruel Intentions, and Jane Austen's Emma was rendered Clueless.

But this sassy, self-referencing update of Hawthorne's tale of a 17th century woman misunderstood is the best yet.

Grabbing her first leading role with both hands, Zombieland's Emma Stone is utterly brilliant as Olive, the bright but date-starved teen whose life starts to mirror that of Hawthorne's adulterer Hester Prynne.

To please her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka of Bandslam), Olive makes up a story about spending the weekend with a college guy. So when Rhi insists she must have lost her virginity, Olive sees no harm in playing along.

As luck would have it, their conversation is overheard by the school's religious zealot-in-chief, Marianne (Bynes), who wastes no time in spreading the news.

Embracing her new-found infamy, Olive adds fuel to the puritanical fire by providing (fake) personal services for the socially and sexually challenged and advertising her Prynne-like status by wearing a red 'A' on all her trampy new outfits.

But the longer she keeps up the ruse, the further it spins out of control.

Like Juno (only without the indie tics), it doesn't take long to realise that Olive's first-person confession is several cuts above the teen mainstream.

Seriously, dudes, high school comedies aren't supposed to be this good.

Knowing yet never smug, sharp but genuinely appealing, raunchy without being lewd; it's an astonishingly well-judged achievement from a first-time writer (Bert V. Royal) and the director whose last effort was the lamentable Fired Up.

Perfect casting helps. As Olive's parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are so cool you'll wish they were yours. Same goes for Thomas Haden Church's English teacher, though Lisa Kudrow grabs the chance to behave in a distinctly uncool fashion as his student-counsellor wife.

Throw in Malcolm McDowell's marvellously old-school principal, Bynes hitting a sanctimonious high, and engaging turns from Michalka, Cougar Town's Dan Byrd, and Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley as the boy who got away, and you'll struggle to find a better ensemble.

With Stone providing the film's constant, if somewhat misguided, heart as the girl who just wants her love life to turn out like a John Hughes movie, it proves you don't have to plunge into the toilet or spend two hours at the shrine of Judd Apatow to tickle the teenage funny bone.

Straight A's all round.

Elliott Noble