At least Emma Stone gets high marks in this teen comedy. She added droll zest to Zombieland; here she's both brash and vulnerable as Olive, the much rumored school slut, who in fact is still a virgin.
The false reputation springs from an overheard fib that's grown exponentially; instead of denying it, however, Olive exploits it to defend a bullied gay student and semi-save a marriage. When the outcry reaches a climax (Jesus freaks unite), Olive coolly dons a scarlet "A," and that's where the film and director Will Gluck run into trouble.
The allusions to Hawthorne's novel, not to mention the John Hughes references, come off as sloppy twaddle, and Gluck can't find the balance between genuine pathos and slapstick comedy. The veteran cast, which includes Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Hayden Church, and Lisa Kudrow, does shore up the walls some, but an actress with Stone's appeal deserves better material for her A game.