“Teen movies sure have changed since I was a teen.” I heard those words while leaving the theater after watching the latest teen comedy Easy A and, judging by the age of the speaker, they clearly evoked one name, John Hughes.
They weren’t words of disappointment though. Easy A is a movie that is sure to please fans of John Hughes, not to mention fans of John Cusack holding an infamous boom box outside a girl’s window. The speaker was happy, her words merely acknowledging that technology has redefined the game of being a teenager.
Cell phones, YouTube, and Facebook have changed the nature – and the velocity – of communication. If so and so glances at the boyfriend of someone’s best friend, it’s all over the school before she can finish opening her locker. It may be all over the world by the time she reaches her next class.
The movie jokes that kids today are obsessed with documenting the minutia of their lives like never before, each day recorded by tweeting and writing on each other walls almost minute by minute. (I also wonder. How do my daughters manage to send over 2000 texts a month?)
It is in the midst of this high school as information superhighway that Olive (a very likeable Emma Stone) slips up in the girls’ bathroom at school. She jokingly tells her best friend that she went all the way over the weekend, not realizing that the school’s popular girl, Marianne (Amanda Bynes), is quietly lurking and listening in one of the stalls.
Before Olive is finished drying her hands, the entire school thinks she’s easy and boys and girls alike are giving her the eye in the halls – boys longingly, girls loathingly. And the funny thing is that, after an annoying period of adjustment, she finds she likes being the center of attention for once. She plays along.
Soon, she’s fictionally going all the way with half the boys in the school. After reading a little Nathaniel Hawthorne in English class, she’s inspired to don a sexy dress adorned with a bright red fabric ‘A’ and she purrs to a suitor, “Do you know my name is an anagram for ‘I love?’”
Olive has fun, but she never quite takes her act to heart. She and her parents – a delightful pair of hippies out of time played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson – seem born of the wrong eras. Olive wishes that life were like the movies of John Hughes, especially when they break out into musical numbers for no apparent reason.
And, as Easy A plays with this longing, it is at its most inventive. The eventual boy of Olive’s dreams is just the sort of guy who would’ve swept Molly Ringwald off her feet on her 16th birthday. And a highlight has Olive bursting Bueller-style into song and dance during a pep rally.
As a teenager, I didn’t grow up on John Hughes. Sixteen candles were still years away from being lit. My favorite teen movie was – and still is – Over the Edge, also known as the debut of Matt Dillon. That movie climaxes with a scene of parents locked behind bars in a school cafeteria while their teenage children set fire to their cars.
They finally call for help when a sympathetic student hands them a telephone from the distant wall, its cord just barely allowing it to reach their outstretched arms. Yes, teen movies sure have changed since I was a teen.