Easy A (2010) dir. Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow
By Alan Bacchus
The Scarlett Letter scenario gets turned around in this high concept teen comedy, which according to the compendium of critical opinion, Rotten Tomato-meter of 87%, would probably make it the most acclaimed teen comedy of all time. High expectations usually disappoint and this is no exception. Other than the literary link up to the Nathaniel Hawthorne book, Easy A is an unmemorable rudimentary comedy.
Olive (Emma Stone) is the grounded down-to-earth type who presumably watches all kinds of movies and TV and thus can see through the cliches inherent in her high school life. Specifically her nemesis Marianne (Amanda Bynes), a straight-edge Christian princess who acts like a very bitchy sexual Teetotaler and thus disapproves of any kind of naughty sexual behaviour. After an innocent lie to her best friend Rhiannon that she went on a date with a college student, she’s asked the immortal question – did you lose your virginity? Rhiannon’s persistence prompts Olive to further the lie and yes, admit she popped her cherry.
Via emails and texts, the information flies through the school and instantly Olive is looked at like she’s a different person. Whether people she thinks a slut, or whether guys think she’s now more available Olive becomes popular. When her gay best friend asks her to pretend they slept together in order for him to appear straight Olive furthers her reputation. Soon she’s accepting bribes for ‘fake sleeping’ with people.
Though Olive hasn’t actually slept with anyone, she has replaced one sin (sex) for another (lying), and this will of course backfire on her. Unfortunately, the problem with this film is that Olive never truly feels threatened by any of the backlash. Nor did we ever feel as if she truly desired the popularity. Olive stays ‘grounded’ and ‘superior’ to everyone and everything around her no matter what happens. Only when she’s nearly date raped do her actions ‘kind of’ set in.
And her parents played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are acting in a completely different movie altogether, with a completely different script. Curiously they are even more laid back and disaffected by Olive’s actions and new reputation. Perhaps they’re supposed to be characterized against type, as liberal parents, accepting of the new realities of adolescent life, but there’s no conflict and thus they have no purpose being in the film.
Also, the consistent pop cultural references to John Hughes and Cameron Crowe feel played out many many years too late. For example the emotional climax for Olive comes in the form of Woodchuck Todd (Badgley) doing his John Cusack impression from Say Anything, holding a pair of speakers over his head proclaiming his love to her. There’s also a whole montage of clips from other teen classics inserted directly into the movie.
Will Easy A make for another teen classic? The critical consensus might suggest that. But what moments from Gluck’s film would we add to it’s own montage? The final shot of Todd and Olive riding a lawn mower off screen with their fists in the air like Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club – certainly not.
Easy A is available on Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.