1,020. It isn’t a bad number if you’re talking about how many dollars you pull down a week from your part-time job or how many people drove more than a hundred miles to attend your concert. But if you want to get into an Ivy League school and 1020 is your SAT score, it’s a bit less impressive.
Kyle just got that number on his Scholastic Aptitude Test and watched helplessly as his dreams of getting into Cornell dashed themselves against the rocks. His best friend, Matty, is in the same boat. He wants to be at a state school with his girlfriend, but there’s no way he’ll get accepted with the numbers he has now.
The two rant about how miserably unfair such standardized tests are and, during the sturm und drang, they come up with a plan: break into the Educational Testing Services corporate offices—where all things SAT are stored—and swipe a copy of a re-test that’s coming up in a couple weeks. As they solidify their scheme, disenfranchised students of every shade and stripe begin crawling out of the woodwork wanting in on it. There is Anna, the salutatorian who completely blanked during the test. Desmond, whose shot at the NBA may be jeopardized if he can’t get into college. Roy, the school stoner, who needs all the academic "help" he can get. And Francesca, an angry anarchist (whose dad just so happens to own the ETS offices), who is willing to do anything that’ll hurt her emotionally absent father. They say they all have one thing in common—the SAT is standing between them and their futures.
There are a few quickly aborted objections to stealing. Kyle claims thievery is never justified. Anna rightly notes that a victimless crime is still a crime. Elsewhere, Francesca demonstrates how teens need healthy parental involvement in their lives with her rebellious example. When she tells Kyle that he wouldn’t be interested in hearing about her detached father since “it’s the oldest story in the world,” he kindly replies, “Not if it’s your story.” Francesca later says that she’d love to be a good mother when she grows up. Roy encourages Desmond to talk more openly with his mom. In turn, Desmond’s mom tells Roy he has to stop using drugs and, apparently, he gives them up by film’s end. [Spoiler Warning] The movie’s immoral premise gets moderated somewhat when all six students, stuck by pricks of conscience, refuse to use cribbed answers the day of the test (of course, they've already studied the actual answers, so they're still cheating).
After happening upon Roy’s bong, Desmond’s mother states, “You know how they say, ‘Thank the Lord my mother’s not around to see this?’ Well, someone’s mother is!”
Francesca often wears tight clothing and one of her shirts shows a lot of cleavage. The camera catches a glimpse of what's under her skirt as well. When Matty tells her he won’t peek at her undergarments as she crawls across the floor to avoid a security camera, she asks why he thinks she is wearing any.
A security guard ogles a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. When Matty learns that his squeeze is two-timing him at college, he exclaims, “The SAT is pimping out my girlfriend!” While infiltrating ETS, Roy looks lustfully at a woman in a short skirt and makes crude comments about sex acts. He also fantasizes about having intercourse with Anna in a parked car (there’s cartoonish moaning and some sexual movement, but no nudity).
Francesca’s father cavorts with a bevy of buxom beauties barely older than his daughter. Jokes are traded about erections and genital size. Francesca considers “performing” in pornography as a future career move. A picture of a bikini-clad woman adorns a man’s desk. Anna breaks away from her domineering parents by dressing like a strumpet. “You looks like a slut,” Francesca tells her. “I like it.” Roy then says Anna looks like she needs a pimp. Matty and Francesca smooch, as do Kyle and Anna.
Kyle imagines a SWAT team tackling him as he tries to get access to the test. A similar moment has Francesca kicking and shooting police officers in a dead-on tribute to The Matrix’s opening scene. Roy takes a tumble from a tree limb. A person is hauled off bodily by police.
Crude or Profane Language
One use of the f-word and more than 20 of the s-word. There are over 30 more profanities and crudities. Together, God's and Jesus’ names are abused about six times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Francesca mentions that a schoolmate is addicted to Percocet. Roy compares the day of the heist to a joint. He puffs on pot in an abandoned bathroom and even tries to take a hit off a hemp comforter. When asked why he uses so often, he says it’s just something to do. Francesca alludes to a famous scene in the 1985 hit The Breakfast Club wherein a bunch of students get ripped on marijuana. Kyle’s older brother has a wine-tasting party in his parents' house. Kyle takes a sip from his brother’s beer to annoy him. When Matty catches Francesca smoking cigarettes he reprimands her, saying it makes kissing “nasty.” A security guard also smokes.
Other Negative Elements
The blame for everything from failed romances to lousy professional decisions gets laid on the doorstep of the SAT. The test is demonized from start to finish. It’s implied that teachers and administrators prefer standardized tests over foundational education such as reading because they can line their own pockets with government cash if students do well.
Additionally, Kyle lies to his parents about his score. A quick rear shot shows a man urinating.
I have a lot of empathy for Kyle. I didn’t do all that well my first time up to bat at the SAT. It wasn’t like I struck out, but my score was pretty similar to Kyle’s: a solid single. And, like Kyle, I knew I hadn’t done well enough to get into the college of my choice. That’s where the similarities stop. Instead of scheming against the test’s creators, breaking into their offices and swiping the exam—or some other similarly unethical and illegal activity, I took after-school classes and worked hard to nudge up my numbers. It wasn’t a dramatic or sexy route to take, but it worked.
Unfortunately, most of the teens who absorb the lessons taught in The Perfect Score (yet another dose of misshapen indoctrination from MTV Films) will leave thinking the best path to superior scores lies not in hardcore studying, but in manipulating the system. Not to mention that standardized testing is cruel, confining, dehumanizing, sexist, racist and little more than a roadblock to future prosperity!
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Chris Evans as Kyle; Bryan Greenberg as Matty; Leonardo Nam as Roy; Scarlett Johansson as Francesca; Erika Christensen as Anna; Darius Miles as Desmond
Brian Robbins ( )