“The rumors of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated.”
The Scoop: 2010 PG-13, directed by Will Gluck and starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes and Penn Badgley
Tagline: Let’s not and say we did
Summary Capsule: A high school eschews the usual student response to ‘The Scarlet Letter’ to instead embrace it for fun, popularity & gift cards
Kyle’s rating: “I hope and I pray / for Hester to win just one more ‘A'”
Kyle’s review: It’s a funny thing, trying to appropriate the energy of those ‘classic’ ’80s movies that inspired so many of us and taught so many more how our lives should be. Tragically, most of our lives are empty, monotonous husks more reminiscent of the cinema of the 1990s. But I guess life is what you make it, right?
Easy A is simultaneously one girl’s attempt to have her own ’80s kind of life and an amusing critique of all the stuff ’80s movies did their best to cram down our throats. It’s not perfect and it’s definitely not as smart as it wants to be, but sometimes being charming and clever is all you need to be a fairly memorable high school movie. It’s not our standards that are disintegrating, mind you, it’s that everybody’s dream lives are getting more and more complicated because there are a lot more of us out there in the world!
Easy A, then, sort of shoots itself immediately in the foot by following the (non-)sexual exploits of Olive (Emma Stone), a wonderful and white young high school girl inexplicably cast as a sorta-outsider in the small fairly white town of Ojai, California. No one is really that poor or depressed or oppressed, and though it is a small town there is minimal authentic angst. So everyone is happy, well-adjusted, and seemingly always invited to the big house parties that the various more-well-off students throw here and there. Does that sound like your high school experience? Yeah, not so much.
But then, Easy A is in many ways less about the plot and much more about how absolutely adorable Emma Stone is. Much like Disturbia being a showcase for Shia Lebeouf first and a remake of Rear Window second, Easy A never lets you forget that Stone is a national treasure, what with her scene-stealing turns in Superbad and Zombieland. Being a full-blooded male, I did not mind at all this extreme focus on Emma Stone. Your reactions may vary.
My enjoyment here also relied heavily upon my sincere soft spot for the ‘heightened reality’ that dominates most truly fun and quippy hs films. If the schools of reel-ity matched those of reality, there would sure be a lot more fights, STDs, disenfranchised masses whose problems could not be solved within two hours of film, and teachers who just plain did not care. Easy A is in many ways a throwback to those happy films where no problem was so serious that a tender confession or appeal to humanity’s finest qualities couldn’t sway both momentum and public opinion to what is right and just. As I mentioned, however, Easy A also takes a few swipes at such cinematic cliches, though the emphasis is fairly front and center on the fun stuff. Gotta sell those tickets, after all!
Easy A is good news for all of us that read and write here at good ol’ Mutant Reviewers, though. The set-up is a classically-entertaining one: superhot and superclever Olive (Stone) is somehow an outsider at her small high school. Cue her doing a good deed for the reputation of her closeted gay friend Brandon, and Olive finds out that having your dirty laundry aired out for the whole school to see has some really interesting effects upon one’s social life. Since Olive doesn’t care too much what people think of her anyway, but finding it great that hard-up boys will gladly shower her with gift cards and movie tickets if she merely allows them to say they scored with her, it’s just a few moments of screen time for Olive to become a no-touching madame of her high school, where actual sex is never even a consideration because the only true currency is what people think of you. Or more specifically, what they think you have done. Hilarity ensues!
What makes Easy A really subversive (but not too much so, mind you) is how this whole situation sort of grows out of a friendly lie Olive finds herself trapped in (her best friend thinks Olive lost her virginity one weekend when Olive was mainly just rocking out chastely to the musical greeting card a relative sent her) and then becomes a kind of self-sustaining monster that Olive encourages yet tries to remain morally distanced from. It’s a really interesting progression, and lets you wonder for a while if they’re really going to go in a new and dark direction with this material . . . but then they don’t, and everything is mostly resolved in the exact same manner it began: with Olive utilizing a direct confession to make the truth known and we are left to assume that since we see Emma Stone as a charming and clever honest young girl, everyone else will see it as well and believe whatever she has to say (err, spoiler!).
So, yeah. Easy A is not quite the revelation you might be hoping for, but it is a great future guilty pleasure that you’ll buy at a chain store on sale someday and revisit on rainy/sick days. Stone will certainly go on to many more films more worthy of her energy and ability to render fully-fleshed out character, but since all movie stars have to make their “bones” on helming flimsy pieces of whimsy powered by charisma, let’s just give Easy A a much-earned ‘pass’ and hope Stone’s next piece of work will be something really dramatic and Oscar-worthy. Or, you know, maybe just Zombieland 2 would be okay!
- In the original script there were 41 instances of the word “f***,” 13 uses of “s***,” and “c***” was used 3 times. These were all cut down heavily to avoid a R rating and ensure a PG-13 instead.
- One of the protest signs reads “Exodus 20:14” which is one of the ten commandments and reads “You shall not commit adultery”
- Olive receives free movie tickets as payment for her services, but is upset because they are only redeemable at the town movie theater that shows “obscure foreign films.” The film she sees is “Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe” which is a 1973 German adaptation of The Scarlet Letter.
Mr. Griffith: I don’t know what your generation’s fascination is with documenting your every thought, but I can assure you, they’re not all diamonds. “Roman is having an okay day and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof.” Who gives a rat’s ass?
Olive: What happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life.
Olive: (to Brandon) Relax. Jesus, what is it with you gays? Are you really that repulsed by lady parts? What do you think I have down there? A gnome?
Rhiannon: George is not a sexy name. George is like what you name your teddy bear, not the name you wanna scream out during climax.
Olive: We’ve had nine classes together since kindergarten. Ten if you count Religion of Other Cultures, which you didn’t because you called it science fiction and refused to go.
Mrs. Griffith: I’m the guidance counselor: I should know all the students, especially the ones that dress like prostitutes.
Rhiannon: You’re being pretty cavalier about this. Aren’t you supposed to be eternally in love with him and s**t?
Olive: Yes, I believe so, if I was the Gossip Girl in Sweet Valley of the Traveling Pants.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- 10 Things I Hate About You
- The Scarlet Letter