Review: Easy A
Easy A is just as painfully implausible as most high-school based comedies. Anyone who has been there knows you can’t wear a corset to class or grind on a handrail at a pep rally, let alone enroll if you are over 21 years of age. Yet where the film succeeds is with its relatable characters, hugely likable cast and the fact that it actually induces consistent laughs.
Emma Stone gives a star-making performance as Olive, who is just your typical teenage outcast until she agrees to help her gay friend Brandon (Cougar Town‘s Dan Byrd) avoid scrutiny by telling everyone they had sex. Olive’s popularity begins to skyrocket, but now there are all sorts of slobs and dweebers who want her to do the same favor for them. They’re even willing to offer gift cards to distinguished establishments like Office Max and Home Depot in exchange! While words like “skank” and “slut” become some of her more unflattering identifiers, she can’t figure out where to draw the line.
Easy A deals with some of the all too familiar teen dilemmas of popularity versus morality, but offers a new spin in that Olive’s popularity comes out of selflessness rather than selfishness. She’s basically ruining her good (albeit largely unknown) name in order to raise the status of her peers. I mean for crying out loud, she goes as far as falsely admitting to having chlamydia to save another character’s ass! While Stone’s voiceover narrative is effective in giving us her side of the story (something never heard in the high school rumor-mill), there are moments when conversations feature painfully long pauses in actuality just so Stone can fit in a few more storytelling tidbits.
In yet another example of Hollywood’s overreliance on the cell phone as a plot device, all of the film’s rumor-spreading montages focus on texting. Are we really supposed to believe there were no rumors before the advent of the cell phone?
Amanda Bynes (who at 24 is already past her prime looks-wise) and Cam Gigandet head a crew of Jesus-loving stiffs, a teen clique that doesn’t catch nearly enough flack in these types of movies. It’s also nice to see a love interest who is the basketball team’s mascot (Penn Badgley) as opposed to its star player. The film features crazy pep rallies galore, but thankfully none of those half-assed dunk-filled in-game scenes that make us former athletes cringe.
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are an added delight as Olive’s free-spirited and hyper-lenient parents. Malcolm McDowell is the school’s inexplicably British principal, Thomas Haden Church is the sexy teacher who all the female students lust over (every school has one) and Lisa Kudrow is like you’ve never seen her before as his wife and the school’s guidance counselor.
Throughout the film we are reminded through flashbacks and John Cusack sightings of those classic teen comedies of the ’80s (you know, the days when characters didn’t spend half their screen time on their blackberries and iPhones), and you’d better believe there’s a Say Anything homage among them. Easy A isn’t quite on par with those films, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s a lazy Sunday hall-of-famer in the making, earning a coveted spot alongside the always reliable Mean Girls and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
RIYL: Mean Girls, Superbad, John Tucker Must Die.