Yeah, I know, my first piece for Blogcritics, and I cop out and take the most obvious title one could think of. OK, but here’s the thing: Easy A really is a terrific little film.
Emma Stone plays Olive, a typically awkward teenage girl, which is to say a typically awkward movie version of an awkward teenage girl. We’re supposed to look at her and believe she isn’t movie-star-caliber beautiful but that she instead would never turn the boys’ heads. And she pulls it off.
Olive tells a little white lie one day, claiming to have lost her virginity to an older boy. The story spreads across the school like the cliched wildfire, and suddenly Olive is the alleged school slut. She turns entrepreneur, allowing boys who pay her to claim that they had sex so that they can be hailed as sexual conquering heroes.
The result is, like 10 Things I Hate About You, a clever, albeit much less literal, retelling of a lit classic, in this case The Scarlet Letter. Olive willing shoulders the labels her peers impose upon her, undergoing the typical self-discovery as she does.
OK, it’s all a bit cliched: the awkward girl discovers she is really beautiful inside and out, that boys can like her just the way she is, but it’s not handled in a cliched way at all. Stone turns in a star-making performance, showing she has charm enough to shoulder a movie all on her own.
And yet she doesn’t have to go it alone. How’s this for a supporting cast: Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, and Malcolm McDowell. And while she may not have the name value of those heavyweights, Amanda Bynes turns in a fine performance as Olive’s snooty, snotty rival, and Fred Armisen turns in a very funny cameo.
And that’s not even the best of the bunch: Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play the too-hip-parents that you always wished you had, with dialogue far funnier and more charming than anything anyone ever actually said in a real conversation. But who cares? This isn’t about reality, it’s about entertainment, and this is tremendously intelligent entertainment.
Tucci, Clarkson, Church, and Stone trade rapid banter that evokes the feeling of a Howard Hawks screwball comedy, a sort of a His High School Girl Friday. And the film makes frequent and, at least to Gen-Xers, satisfying allusions to classic high school comedies like Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The result: a movie that feels comfortingly familiar and novel all at once.
Olive is as smart and bitingly funny as you always wished you were. Her parents are as cool as you always wanted yours to be. And Easy A is as smart a high school comedy as you could ask for.
It’s a more cuddly than Saved, more biting than Breakfast Club, and more fanciful than Juno, and it’s a film that doesn’t deserve all these comparisons to other movies, because it’s a terrific movie in it’s own right.