Bert V. Royal
Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michallka, Stanley Tucci
PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material
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If John Hughes had made features in the 2010s, some might say that Easy A would be his kind of movie. However, there’s a delightful humor to the film that moves beyond the sometimes cynical approach Hughes put to his films. Even though this is a lighter, more enjoyable version of classic Hughes films, it is clear he had an influence on the filmmaker, Will Gluck, who uses references to three of John’s films (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). On top of this, there is a reference to Say Anything… which further suggests that Gluck was trying to put his mark on the 21st century with a film he hopes will represent an entire teen social era. And surprisingly enough, he succeeds.
This story revolves around a high schooler who wants to get her friend to stop nagging her about a boy she supposedly dated and lies that they had slept together. This is Olive’s (Emma Stone) second lie, but it won’t be her last as a single overheard remark spreads like wildfire and then further lies spread further disaster until Olive is cast as the school’s whore and she becomes desperate to get out from under the label as her lies have begun to take a toll on those around her and those she most cares about. The film is narrated via webcam as Olive tells the entire world about all of her dishonesty and, unlike a lot of films that use a similar framing device, this one manages to continue to use it effectively for the length of the film, further pleasing me with its ability to not only stay on topic, but keep pace and rhythm sufficiently in check.
Many young directors believe they can channel the spirit, angst and frustration of an entire generation. Although I think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is far more successful of this year’s offerings, Easy A does an excellent job with a completely different tack. Whereas Scott Pilgrim clearly appeals to a specific countercultural demographic, Easy A spreads its appeal far wider to both teenage crowds and younger adults. You don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of video games to appreciate this like you did Scott Pilgrim, but you also don’t have to have a deep knowledge of The Scarlet Letter, which forms the backbone of the film’s plot, or of literature in general, though knowing something may give you a few more insights into the more interesting jokes in the film (a Sylvia Plath joke late in the film is far more droll when you know something about her).
Emma Stone shows us a talent that could lead her on a career path similar to that of Reese Witherspoon whose success in Election helped propel her to a strong career that includes an Oscar win. Stone delivers witty liners like a 40-year-old professional and when she goes toe to toe with the likes of Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, she acts on a peer level, which is rather impressive for such a young actress. Clarkson and Tucci do outstanding work as Olive’s parents and to a slightly lesser extend, so do Thomas Haden Church as Olive’s teacher and Lisa Kudrow as her guidance counselor.
August 20, 2010