September 17, 2010
Review - " Easy A " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd,
Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa
Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci
If, as the old comic said on his deathbed, dying is easy but comedy
hard, then how is it every so often a film comes along that makes
comedy look so easy? Such is the case with “Easy A” a high school
romp that turns a stale genre upside down with sly wit and sharp
Certainly much of the credit goes to Bert Royal who has crafted a
smart screenplay that introduces a classical theme into contemporary
youth culture. And director Will Gluck keeps the screen busy and
vibrant without the current fad of attention-deficit, run-and-gun editing.
Most of all, a young actress was needed to carry the movie. Emma
Stone, who has been waiting in the wings for such a starring
opportunity, seizes the moment with such self-assurance and old-
fashioned vivacity that she elevates the game of every actor who
comes within her orbit. Consequently, the film is loaded with sparkling
supporting performances that make the comedy oh-so-much richer.
“Easy A” has the potential to be that rare film that connects with
audiences below and above the 25-year age line. But to reach that
wider demographic, Screen Gems will need to market this as a “Juno”-
like offering centering on a teenage girl with whip-smart dialogue and
The story takes place in Southern California’s Ojai Valley. The conflicting interplay of liberal sensibilities and small-town small-
mindedness underscores the themes in Royal’s playful script.
A semi-adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” “Easy A” stars Emma Stone (who has previously had
supporting roles in other teen flicks like “Superbad” and “Zombieland”) as Olive Penderghast, a straight-laced, pretty girl who
we’re expected to believe is a teenage outcast. You might not quite buy the notion that such a pretty and intelligent student
as Olive ever flew under everyone’s radar at Ojai High School. But nevermind — once a vicious rumor races through the
campus, Olive certainly takes center stage. Trouble is, she is the source of the rumor.
To cover up for a dull weekend of doing absolutely nothing, Olive tells best gal pal Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) a lurid tale about
having a hot romance with a college dude; she more than hints that she lost her virginity. Gossip-hungry Rhiannon is as
pleased as she is shocked, but the tale is overheard by Marianne (Amanda Bynes), leader of the school’s Jesus-freak
celibates, who is merely shocked.
The scandalized teen can’t wait to tweet, so
the social network of Ojai High is soon abuzz
over Olive’s promiscuity. Discovering to her
surprise that her new notoriety is more
appealing than alarming, Olive decides not
to deny the rumor, which leads to surprising
Another school pal, Brandon (Dan Byrd),
bullied because he is gay, persuades Olive
to use her bad-girl reputation to help him
fake his heterosexuality. Soon other losers
in the popularity games of youth come to her
It just so happens that while this is going on,
Olive’s English class, taught by the charismatic
Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), is
studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” Realizing her newfound identity with its heroine, Hester Prynne — a
public pariah because of an act of adultery — Olive starts to wear homemade trashy clothes festooned with a bright letter “A.”
Her liberal-minded and most trusting parents (Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson), latter-day hippies one can only wish to have
for parents, notice this change in their daughter and do question her about her choice of attire. But they never question her
judgment or behavior.
So the film makes all sorts of comic attacks on hypocrisy, social networking, peer pressure, false values and double
standards. Meanwhile, parents will no doubt thrill to any teen movie that treats the loss of virginity in a negative light.
If there’s any drawback it’s that the comedy peaks too early in Olive and Brandon’s hilarious make-out behind closed doors
at a raucous party. The film never finds anything nearly that funny in the subsequent “sales” of fraudulent sexual favors by
Olive to other males eager to establish their reputations as studs. And the film struggles to find anything humorous in the sad
demise of Mr. Griffith’s marriage to a guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow), which indirectly involves Olive.
The entire movie is framed as a live webcast by Olive to the entire community to confess her false career as a school slut.
This allows Stone’s character to offer
wisecracks and wisdom while commenting
on this career and everyone else’s
character-defining response to utter
nonsense. The entire screenplay is shot
through with zippy one-liners and puns that
might possibly make the film funnier on
The acting is terrific throughout, with gems
by Tucci, Clarkson, Byrd and Church as
well as Malcolm McDowell as the bad-
tempered school principal and Penn
Badgley as Olive’s true love, who, like her
parents, pays no attention to rumors.
(ok, you know I just have to use this awful
pun) It's easy to give "Easy A" and easy A.
So just sit back and have fun watching
someone not having sex.