3.5 Stars/5 Stars
The unspoken standard for these kinds of teen comedies, in which a classic novel is shoehorned into the plot of the film, is 10 Things I Hate About You. I know you were all hoping I’d say that it’s She’s the Man, but I didn’t. Why, you ask? Because like so many before and after (I’m looking at you, Mean Girls), that movie was infinitely more concerned with titillation on the off-chance that somebody’s dad would pay again and again to be bored in between those scenes. Easy A, which also features Amanda Bynes, who recently announced her retirement from acting, is a much better swan song for her. She plays a stereotypical fundamentalist Christian high school student, but she’s written so well, you forget the stereotype. After seeing the star of the film, Emma Stone (whose performance I will get to in a second) wearing a slutty-looking Halloween bodice and a red ‘A’ on her chest, like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, she decides she needs to ‘save the sluts’ and organize prayer meetings for her.
In the film, Olive Penderghast’s (Emma Stone’s) gay friend (Dan Byrd) asks if she can fake having sex with him at a party so that the guys at school can finally stop the insults. And while it works for him, it doesn’t work for Olive, whose new reputation as the easy girl at school gets her noticed for all the wrong reasons. She looks at the event as a one-time deal, but soon, she finds a whole subculture of guys at her school who will pay her to tell people she slept with them. It’s at this point that she dons the aforementioned costume to tie the film to the book. She soon finds herself accepting not only cash, but coupons and gift certificates for her service. The stakes get higher and higher as she realizes some guys believe the lie and that it’s getting harder and harder to keep a clear line between her ‘easy’ self and her true self. Emma Stone is so very likeable in this movie because you can tell from her star-making performance that even telling the least seedy of stories, she’s got a moral conflict about it all. The other way this film keeps you entertained is with genuinely unexpected twists that sort of push the envelope on what people are willing to talk about sex-wise. Stanley Tucci steals every scene he’s in as Olive’s dad, another unpredicted plus to this film.
Other than an extremely slow first 10 minutes, what I think drags this film down is some of the editing, which is so jarring at points that you almost miss some key parts of the plot. But if you pay attention, I think you’ll really enjoy this film enough to say that it’s better than She’s the Man, Mean Girls, and maybe even 10 Things. It takes the usual ideas of a teen comedy like this and makes them very entertaining, and at times, very poignant, and never forcedly titillating. See it if you get the chance. You will not be disappointed.
4.5 Stars/5 Stars
Recently, Alan Ball said to Rolling Stone, “I don’t care about high school students. I find them irritating and uninformed.” Well I don’t blame him. Looking at the countless ludicrous films that teenagers turn into box-office hits each weekend, I would suppose the same thing. However, once every couple of years, a really good teen flick (bleh, what a terrible phrase) emerges from the rubble and makes a connection, not just with the target audience, but with anyone watching the film. In the past we’ve had Juno, Say Anything, Mean Girls–now we have Easy A. It’s pretty much there in the title. This movie effortlessly makes us fall in love with it; with its story, its characters, and with all the gooey feelings we get watching it.
Let’s start with our heroine, the lovely and, up to this point, neglected Emma Stone (Zombieland, Superbad). She’s going to be very busy following the release of Easy A and I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t get a nomination at the next Golden Globes. Stone embodies her character, Olive, with a confidence and cleverness that sets the tone for the whole movie. Olive, having been branded the new school trollop, recognizes this reputation as a challenge to build on rather than a fate to accept. When you look like Emma Stone and have the personality of Olive Penderghast, it’s hard to believe our protagonist isn’t the most popular girl at school. But that leads me to my next point.
Easy A’s singular flaw: it resides not in Ojai, California, but in some strange universe where all the parents are cool (except the Christian ones, it seems), where it’s uncool to lose your virginity, and where Emma Stone is one of those girls who gets her books shoved out of her arms (do those girls even really exist?). But I’m willing to overlook these unlikely factors in light of the fact I’m still so mushy-feeling about everything else.
Have I mentioned the supporting roles yet? No? Surprising since they’re one of the most resonating qualities of the movie. Easy A’s supporting cast is by far one of the strongest ensembles you’ll find in theatres right now. In particular, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci, and Patricia Clarkson are flawless as Olive’s supportive parents and teacher. Lisa Kudrow’s role as the guidance counselor takes a surprising turn in the chaos that becomes Olive’s reputation, and Malcolm McDowell makes an appearance as the strict principal of East Ojai. And Amanda Bynes, in her final role, plays against her typical plucky role of charming eccentric teenager with her turn as Marianne–the leader of a hard-core Christian youth group.
Easy A’s script, by Bert V. Royal, is clever, fast-paced, and incessantly funny. The scene where Olive and her gay friend, Brandon, pretend to hook-up in the bedroom of a crowded party is hysterical to say the least. A movie this smart and likeable is hard to find with films like Twilight and Saw V wandering around. With the extended number of Best Picture nominations, does Easy A have a chance at some recognition? Who knows, maybe.
You walk out of the theatre feeling lighter and wanting to see Easy A again, if only to hear Emma Stone sing “Pocketful of Sunshine” one more time. Olive laments not living in a John Hughes movie, but we would be happy to be in hers.
If you’re not yet convinced, check out this clip where Stanley Tucci is a bit surprised about something…
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