Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy teams up with girl to unearth deep mysteries and overthrow the established social order.
If that doesn't sound like your typical high school movie set-up, well, that's probably because "The Sophomore" (also known as "Assassination of a High School President") ain't exactly your typical high school movie, say co-stars Reece Thompson and Mischa Barton.
"The whole plot is quite deep. The characters are quite well-rounded," Barton told MTV News during a recent visit to the film's Bayonne, New Jersey, set. "I think what's really nice about it is that there is really mature dialogue in there. It still holds [to] those high school stereotypes, but it harkens back to 'Ferris Bueller' or a good high school movie where you really love the characters."
But don't let the fact that it's set in a high school fool you, Barton insisted — this movie is adult through and through.
"It's probably [gonna] be rated R," she revealed. "It's all kind of dark and darkly shot instead of all cheesy and bubblegum."
In fact, "The Sophomore" has more in common tonally with old-school '70s detective thrillers like "Chinatown" or "All the President's Men," Thompson said, than it does with "The Breakfast Club" or "Sixteen Candles," complete with a story that would please any hard-core noir enthusiast.
"[My character] is a journalist for the school paper [who's] never really written an article," Thompson described of the film's setup. "He's excited about interviewing the high school president and finds out the guy's a total idiot. He's just the jock, the star quarterback. [Then] he discovers the SATs are stolen, and [the president] is the one who stole them."
It's a character assassination of the highest order — but, then, the truth isn't exactly what it seems to be in this "twisting, turning" tale, Thompson smirked.
As in any good noir, for instance, there's more to each character than meets the eye — not least of all in Barton's character, Francesca, the sultry "popular girl" and love interest of Thompson's Bobby Funke (pronounced "Funk").
"She's more like my love interest," Thompson corrected, laughing. "Bobby falls in love with Francesca, but she has her own design."
"Francesca is a manipulative girl who knows what she's doing," Barton added coyly. "A total femme fatale, very aware of her sexuality."
Co-starring in the film as the high school principal is Bruce Willis, an "intimidating" presence, Thompson admitted. Willis' character is a Desert Storm veteran who can't let go of his days in Kuwait.
It all adds up to a high school movie that's not exactly a high school movie after all, said Thompson.
"Bobby's very much a 40-year-old trapped in a 15-year-old's body," he contended. "I don't think it's like anyone's high school experience, unless there are kids obsessed with 'the truth.' "
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