Thursday, 11 November 2010

Easy A

One of the most pleasant surprises of this cinematic year, Easy A calls to mind the acerbic heights of 1995's Clueless, standing out like a red carnation amid a crowd of bland, anodyne comedies. Never lapsing into smugness and always careful to maintain a line between pain and pathos, it'll likely set Emma Stone on a well-earned path to stardom.

She plays anonymous yet whip-smart student Olive, who relishes the attention foisted on her when a little white lie about a tryst with a boy spreads around her school like wildfire. Initially, Olive (narrating the tale in stages via web casts) sees an opportunity to stand out from the crowd but then is required to save face when the lies spiral out of control and threaten to drag her name into the mire.

One of many witty twists in Bert V. Royal's screenplay sees the heroine's life both parallel, and then subvert, the storyline of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. But far from it being left to simmer beneath the surface; in an unexpected, post-modern move, Olive explicitly addresses the comparison on her web cam. It's not so much the verbal roasting Olive (inevitably) gives to the notorious Demi Moore 're-imagining' but that fact that the film itself isn't afraid to shy away from its literary associations.

Such intelligence pervades the entire movie, repeatedly hitting the audience like a blast of oxygen. The liberal, hippyish parents (played marvellously by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) owe a clear debt to the quirkiness of Juno, while director Will Gluck takes obvious delight in parading the gym halls and classrooms as Olive's reputation crosses the line, exposing fraternity cliques and grotesque caricatures in all their glory. Especially memorable are Amanda Bynes' hideous tub thumper and Dan Byrd as Olive's bullied gay friend, whom she solicits and pretends to sleep with in a move designed to be advantageous to both (but what turns out to be one of the film's most outrageous and funny scenes).

It does however threaten to become more soft-centred three-quarters of the way through, focusing on Olive's re-kindled love affair with old friend Todd (Pell James), and also a sub-plot involving Lisa Kudrow's teacher, one which threatens to drag it further into soap opera territory. Yet it just about maintains that tightrope act between cynicism, buoyancy and poignancy (the repeated John Hughes riffs may even provoke tears), and has a rock-solid centre in the form of Emma Stone. Smart and beautiful, Olive really is the girl next door you'd like to pick up, one who may be under the thumb of a scarlet letter but who always invites a sense of sympathy and admiration.


  1. Agreed, this film really surprised me. Emma Stone is fantastic, she was due a strong lead role. Its charming, witty and all the other lovely things you say in your review. I really think this film will stand the test of time as one of the great teen movies.

  2. Agreed! Thanks for your comments - this is the sort of movie that gives teen films a kick up the backside. For once here's a film that lives up to the John Hughes references!