Will Gluck‘s female centric teen comedy Easy A is the latest high school satire to reach movie theaters across the land. Emma Stone stars as Olive Penderghast, a regular high school wallflower who is neither popular nor an outcast. Partly to avoid spending the weekend camping with the hippie parents of her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) and partly to impress her, she pretends to have a date with a community college boy. Instead, Olive simply spends the weekend in her bedroom, nail polishing her dog’s paws and slowly obsessing over a greeting card that plays Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine.”
On Monday, Olive makes up a little white lie about her losing her virginity over the weekend but the rumor that she is “easy” soon spreads around the school. Suddenly, the once anonymous Olive becomes very much in demand for all the wrong reasons. Being who she is, Olive is more surprised at the new-found attention than embarrassed. Hence, when a bullied gay friend bribes her to pretend to have some raunchy and noisy heterosexual sex within earshot of the entire school, she reluctantly accepts. Soon enough, Olive’s vocation as a fictitious tramp takes off as the idea snowballs with a number of school outcasts paying her all kind of gift cards to pretend to sleep with them. As rumors spread and her notoriety grows, things soon start to completely get out of hand as her life begins to parallel Hester Prynne’s in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Easy A is an intelligent and enjoyable teen comedy much in the veins of movies like Election, Clueless and Mean Girls. Although its flaws prevent it from joining the ranks of those subtle classics, this movie does capture the silly games of contemporary high school life and how girls are forced to walk that fine line between being attractive but not skanky. The boys who get to “sleep” with Olive are celebrated as studs while she gets the other side of this double standard and is looked down with disgust. The premises of the story may sound a bit archaic and ridiculous and in some ways they are. However, the fact that it portrays such a strong and witty female character who is willing to submit herself to the mockery and disdain of her schoolmates, makes for a refreshing film in an era dominated by male centric teen comedies.
Indeed, this comedy could easily have turned into a crude or vulgar teen flick like so many others but thankfully, it doesn’t with not as much as a kiss being shown on-screen. Will Gluck shares his admiration for cinematic classics of the 1980′s movies, paying homage to them repeatedly, and he isn’t afraid to make fun of taboo subject such as religion or teacher/student relationships. The filmmaker also wisely stays away from crude jokes and slapstick comedy, favoring more genuine comedy of wit and manners while relying on the charisma of his performers, most notably his likable lead actress.
In her short career, Emma Stone has appeared in movies such as Superbad and Zombieland as the main character’s girlfriend. She brought unexpected sass and charm that probably were more than required from these roles. Easy A, however, is her first vehicle and she confidently carries the film from the first instant. Stone is innately sassy; she has a grainy, husky voice as well as a dry and intelligent wit about her that allows her to deliver zingers very effectively. Her unconventional beauty and offbeat sense of humor help her in shaping Olive as a free-spirited, high self-esteem, high school wallflower. Moreover, Stone shows a good range of emotions throughout the movie, playing awkward, charming, vulnerable, funny, cute or sexy at will. While it is not very credible for Hollywood to attempt to pass a smart and funny cutie pie like her as a 17-yr old who has never been kissed, she almost pulls this impossible feat off.
In supporting roles, the adult cast is quite sensational. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s eccentric parents are a match made in comedic heaven. They play very liberal yet caring and responsible parents with a great sense of humor throughout and they have some of the most hilarious lines in the movie. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing those two team up again. Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow round out the sarcastic adult cast as Olive’s caring teacher and his student counselor wife while Amanda Bynes plays the bubbly and archetypal Bible-thumping Christian.
The singular issue in this movie is how it is framed within the overly predictable concept of the webcam confession which makes for heavy use of voice over as well as a near-constant stream of pop music montage. The central plot feels unfocused and doesn’t leave much of an impression once the curtain are lowered. It would have really helped if the movie was as dark and incisive as Election, or had a more consistently funny script as in Mean Girls.
As such, Easy A falls short of joining the ranks of teen comedies classic but it is an enjoyable, charming and wicked watch, powered by Emma Stone’s star-making performance.
Notes: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material, 92 minutes, $8 million production budget.