September 29, 2010

Movie Review: Easy A

easy_aHere is a movie that is smarter than your average high school comedy and just as accessible an funny. Easy A is the sort of movie that is easy to overlook due to the familiarity the trailer brings. It brings that old adage into play: "Familiarity breeds contempt." It is true and can work against a project just as easily as it can help push it to new heights. With regards to Easy A I knew I wanted to see it but I did not have terribly high expectations. I have to think that approach helped me enjoy the movie as much as I did. This is not to say that it is not a good movie as I truly think it is, I just think it is one of those movies that is destined to live on the fringe of memory before ultimately falling off into the abyss of the past.

Easy A is an interesting film that takes a relatively standard high school comedy tale marries it with elements of the classic novel The Scarlet Letter (in a refreshingly obvious fashion), and placed a rising name in the lead role. It is a movie that should play well to a wide audience while never pandering to the crowd. Is it the smartest movie on the block? No, but it doesn't have to be. Easy A brings together mainstream appeal, smarts, and a healthy dose of fun together under one roof.

Emma Stone (of Zombieland fame) stars as Olive, an anonymous high schooler who lives in the shadow of Marianne (Amanda Bynes) and uber-religious clique. The story gets going pretty quickly as Olive does not want to admit she will be home alone for an entire weekend, so in an attempt to get her friend Rhiannon  (Aly Michalka) off her back makes up a story of spending the weekend with a college guy during which she  lost her virginity. The story takes in a life of its own as Marianne overhears and begins to spread it as a warning among the other girls.


In an instant Olive has gone from invisible to the top of the food chain tabloid fashion. Likening her rising profile to what happens to Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, she takes to sewing a big red A onto her wardrobe. This makes her seem even more scandalous and the rumors go to the next level.

This is where it goes to the next level of interest. Olive helps out a gay friend by pretending to have an intimate tryst with him. It works and brings out all of underdogs and Olive is open for business. The business? Well, let's not and say we did.

Yes, I realize I may have already told too much of the story, but to be honest the way this story is going to go is not terribly surprising. I bet you know how it is going to go based on the trailer footage and you would be right. Easy A does as well as it does because of the writing and the performance.


The screenplay by Bert V. Royal is a good one. It gives us some interesting characters with plenty of humor and depth. Even the over the top characters seem to have more going on in them than just the surface. For example, I found that Bynes' Marianne to be rather intriguing, the same for Michalka's Rhiannon, whose bluster masks some deeper issues. However, anything about them is pure speculation. Also, there are Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Olive's parents who are unlike the vast majority of cinema parents I have seen. They take everything in stride and have a unique view on just about everything.

All characters and writing aside, Emma Stone has entered the next stage of her career and it is a good one. She has a great screen presence and does not look like any of the tabloid headline grabbing starlets. She seems to have her head in the right place, looks to have some acting skills, and handles herself admirably with just the right balance of snarky attitude and emotional vulnerability.

Overall, Easy A is a solid movie that surpassed my expectations. The parallels to The Scarlet Letter were interesting and I liked how they did not try to hide it, but rather make it an obvious part of the story. I enjoyed how the plan spirals out of control and how Olive reacts to that loss of control. I like how the characters are more than just window dressing. Easy A is a fun look at the serious nature of high school sexual politics and the disastrous consequences therein.

Just remember not to make light of the ramifications. Yes, this is a comedy but there is an underlying layer of seriousness that should not be taken lightly. Still, in the end make sure you laugh!


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