Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easy A

Directed by Will Gluck.
2010. Rated PG-13, 92 minutes.
Emma Stone
Amanda Bynes
Alyson Michalka
Thomas Haden Church
Lisa Kudrow
Stanley Tucci
Patricia Clarkson
Penn Badgley
Dan Byrd
Malcolm McDowell

Cam Gigandet

Keeping up a lie usually involves telling more lies. One mistruth simply begats the next. For most of us, this continues until the entire house of cards comes tumbling down on our own heads. Olive (Stone) is going through just such a thing.

It all starts innocently enough. She tells her best friend Rhiannon (Michalka) that she’s got a date this weekend when she really doesn’t in order to avoid going camping wither Rhi’s eccentric family. By the time Monday rolls around Rhi wants to know the juicy details of said date. Even though she’s done absolutely nothing at all since leaving school Friday afternoon, she tells Rhi that she lost her virginity to a college guy. Though said in confidence, this happens to be overheard by the wrong set of ears which, of course, share a head with the wrong set of lips. Olive suddenly finds herself to be the most scandalous girl in school. A select few know the tale to be false. However, most of these are boys who help perpetuate the myth, plus create more falsehoods. These guys are in search of changing their own rep and soon they’re lining up to pay Olive for the privilege of saying they slep with her, even though they hadn’t. As you can imagine, Olive soon comes to be viewed as the school whore.

Of course, this all coincides with Olive’s English class reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel “The Scarlet Letter.” She is inspired by the plight of Hester Prynne and embraces her new found notoriety since before she was never talked about at all. She also yearns to piss off Marianne (Bynes), the school’s “Jesus freak.” Olive not only dons progressively sluttier outfits, she adorns them with a giant red “A” just like Prynne was made to wear. Things are going great, until she realizes they really aren’t.

Brazenly, but wisely, Easy A juxtaposes itself with the Hawthorne classic. It even takes the time to note the similarities and differences for us. It goes so far as to defend not only the novel, but the original film version while throwing barbs at the much more recent cinematic attempt starring Demi Moore. The movie gets much mileage from this, even filling in the uninformed on what happens in the book nearly as much as telling its own story. This makes the correlation between the two easily accessible and not just an in-joke to those of us who actually did the reading assignment in school.

The film doesn’t hide from its other major influence, John Hughes movies of the 1980s. Olive blatantly tells us she wishes her life were helmed by the famed director. We also get plenty of references and even short glimpses of those movies. As with “The Scarlett Letter,” this aids our audience, presumably mostly made up of teens and twentysomethings, get the jokes. However, this also highlights the one major flaw I find in Easy A. Our BFFs are too good looking. Part of the charm of movies like Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club is that stars like Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy looked and felt like awkward teens relegated to high school’s lower social class, unsure whether they would ever blossom into the beautiful butterflies they so longed to be. It helped they were actually teenagers. Stone did a fine job with the role. She just can’t possibly give off that type of vibe. Her age, she’s 22 may have something to do with it. The natural confidence of someone already past the painful stages is difficult to contain. In addition, Michalka (also 22) as Rhiannon looks anything but the sexually frustrated, unable to get a boy co-ed we’re told she is. Let’s be honest, if she went to almost any high school in America looking the way she does here, she’d be constantly surrounded by an ever-widening swarm of athletes, rich kids, pretty boys and local college underclassmen. Beating them back with a stick might be a literal action for her instead of just a figure of speech.

The looks of the cast aside, I find Easy A funny in enough spots and very smart. It doesn’t often cause out loud laughter, but extracts the grins and soft chuckles that come from being able to relate to what we’re seeing. It may resonate more with females because their reputations are generally touchier topics. Still, I enjoyed it and had no problem becoming vested in the fate of our hero.

MY SCORE: 8/10

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