Easy A (Review)

EASY A
(9/17/10; Comedy)
Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci
SCR: Bert V. Royal
DIR: Will Gluck
MPAA: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material.
BOX: $74,459,232

Emma Stone brings the funny as Olive, a virginal high school student who tells a lie about sleeping with an imaginary date to appease her slutty BFF Rhiannon (Michalka). The conversation is overheard by pious “Jesus freak” Marianne (a wicked Byrnes) and spreads like wildfire through the tony Ojai community.

This leads to Olive eventually getting paid (in gift cards) by suitors (read: losers) to pretend they have sealed the deal with her, both sullying her already infamous reputation and intensifying the comedic misunderstandings. She responds by further dressing like a harlot and embracing her newfound identity. The fizzy premise uses Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as its jumping off point, allowing Stone’s snarky narration the opportunity to comment on the classic tale and impale the disastrous Demi Moore remake.

Of course, the villagers in Hester Prynne’s world didn’t have internet connections, an observation that need not be made for it to be considered. Many things get skewered in this flick, which manages the near-impossible task of being engaging and consistently funny through most of its running time. The script is clever, mixing equal parts satire with unabashed warm fuzzies for John Hughes’ classic teen flicks from the ‘80s (even going so far to offer up a mash-up between Simple Minds’ “Don’t You [Forget About Me]” with AM’s cover version).

By walking that tightrope between the vulnerable and the wicked, Easy A always seems to be remixing itself as it goes. And how can you fault a movie that gloriously presents the notorious “T word” for shock value and comedic examination several scenes later?

The game cast is beautifully filled with the likes of Church, Kudrow and McDowell riffing on their familiar personas. Tucci and Clarkson play Olive’s hippy parents against the clichés: they are the perfect example of a 21st century nuclear family in which TMI and sarcasm lay the groundwork for refreshing honesty. Byrnes’ bible-thumper is the epitome of icky public worship and will likely engender reactions from both sides of the church aisle. But she’s funny and funny counts.

Regarding faith, there is a funny episode in which Olive seeks out spiritual comfort that is neither sacrilegious nor enough to sell out the concept. Easy A is filled with surprises, hilariously quotable dialogue and winning performances but towering above all is Stone, an instant star.

I would say that Stone seems to be channeling Lucille Ball but I don’t ever remember an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy jumped up and down on a bed with her gay friend simulating loud sex so the rest of the house would hear. (Screen Gems)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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