08 October 2010

Review: "Easy A"

Easy A is a smart teen comedy in the vein of Clueless (1995) and Mean Girls (2004) in that all three films have attempted to depict an accurate reflection of high school life. While Clueless and Mean Girls continue to influence teen comedies I doubt that Easy A will threaten their legacy. The film's problem may also be its greatest asset. Emma Stone is a revelation in Easy A and she gives a wonderfully versatile performance as Olive, but I do wonder if the film's irony and satire may go over the heads of the intended audience. Stone's character is more intelligent and mature than the average teenager. She is more like an adult. This is different from Clueless and Mean Girls, whose lead characters struggle with supposed maturity. The hidden gems of Easy A are two wonderfully talented and under-appreciated actors. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci sink their teeth into the roles of Olive's parents and deliver some of the film's best moments. The only low point of Easy A is the one-dimensional portrayal of Amanda Bynes' religious zealot. The film does belong to Emma Stone who proves that she has the star power to command an entire feature film. Her transformation from invisible nobody to school harlot is clever and believable. Easy A may suffer at times with a formulaic story but it is a witty comedy that gives Emma Stone a great opportunity to shine.

Olive begins the film talking to her web cam about how one small lie snowballed into a major catastrophe. One day she was just a nobody at her high school in Ojai, California and the next day everyone was talking about how she lost her virginity. Olive lies to her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about having a date to get out of a weekend camping trip. On Monday she tells Rhiannon that she had sex with her date. Unfortunately Marianne (Bynes) was in the washroom at the same time and overheard the conversation. Marianne turns to her church group at school and they decide that it is their duty to save Olive. In English class with her favourite teacher (Thomas Hayden Church) they are reading The Scarlet Letter and Olive gets the idea to wear her own scarlet letter. She starts dressing considerably more provocatively at school and boys at school beginning paying her to say they had sex. While her actions negatively affect her relationship with Rhiannon, Olive does find herself spending more time with Todd (Penn Badgley), her first crush. Eventually Olive discovers that her original lie has spiraled out of control and she uses her web cam to record her version of the truth.

So many films have problems coming to realistic conclusions. Easy A is another victim. Its clever premise is almost wasted by a rushed conclusion. It is a very forced ending, although it is not quite as awful as the last few minutes of An Education. Easy A is the second feature film directed by Will Gluck, whose first films, Fired Up (2009), was poorly received. Easy A will not be remembered for its direction but more for its witty screenplay and Emma Stone's performance. Emma Stone's Oliver is an incredibly likable character and much of the film's success comes from the audience empathizing with her. Olive is a multidimensional character and we relate to her yearning to be notice and we understand when she lets it get out of control. She is more mature and worldly than I was in high school and it makes me a bit jealous. Olive is such an interesting character and the premise of Easy A is so interesting that I wish it had not been forced into the formula of a teen comedy. It would have been great to see a real auteur kind of director handle this story.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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