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Movie Review: Easy A

By Tom Houseman

September 28, 2010

Can I say we did it, too? That would be hawt.

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One of the best things about being completely shameless is that I have no problem going by myself to see a movie targeted specifically at teen girls. So after getting my manly things out of the way on Sunday (football watching, moose punching etc.) I headed out to see Easy A, the new comedy starring Emma Stone, where I was one of literally two guys in the entire theater. Should I have been embarrassed to be seen in a theater showing a movie about the problems of high school girls? Maybe, but I was way too busy embracing, with unabashed joy, this delightful and hilarious movie.

Shame is a funny thing, in that just the thought that “others” will judge you for your actions often keeps people from doing what they want to do, or trying to conform to some idea of what they think “others” think they should be. This is the central conceit of Easy A, which takes its inspiration from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. When Olive (Stone) lies to her best friend about losing her virginity, the rumor starts to spread and expand through her school. Olive decides to use her newfound attention for good when her friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) asks her to pretend to have sex with him to diffuse the completely accurate rumors that he’s gay.

From there, things spiral out of control, with everyone at her school completely convinced that Olive is a tramp, and Olive decides to embrace the title, emblazoning all of her clothing with a red felt “A,” an homage to Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne. Throughout much of the whirlwind surrounding her, Olive’s attitude is irreverent and nonchalant, an attitude that Easy A carries with it, which is what makes it such a delight to watch. The script, written by playwright Will Gluck, is incredibly funny, packed with clever dialogue and outstanding visual gags, and a surprising amount of depth for a teen comedy. The characters are well-developed and two-dimensional, and all of them bring something to the film.




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Easy A is the official coming out party for Emma Stone, who gave a solid performance as Wichita in Zombieland, but gives a breathtaking performance as Olive. She must be added to the pantheon of great teen comedy performances, along with Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Stone never plays the laugh, but embraces her character so fully, and delivers each line so perfectly, that she is truly a joy to watch every moment she is on screen. There are depressingly few great comedic performances for women, and Stone, given the perfect opportunity to show her comedic chops, makes the most of it.

Easy A is never preachy, always maintaining an air of silliness through its proceedings, without ever coming off as mocking or shallow. What is perhaps most surprising about it is that the adult characters are developed just as much as the teens. The only actors that hold a candle to Stone are Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. These two superb actors play one of the best sets of parents in the history of two movies, coming off as ridiculous but still completely realistic in the way they deal with their children’s issues. Thomas Haden Church also does a fine job as a teacher who tries to help Olive while dealing with his own issues, and he is just one of many actors who makes the most of a small part by delivering some big laughs.

There are a few moments of imperfection in the film, and sadly, one of them is Amanda Bynes. Proving herself an excellent comedian in She’s the Man, Bynes reveals her inability to play it straight. As the typically villified Christian who tries to “save” Olive, Bynes plays ever line over-the-top, and is the only character who feels more like a caricature. But these flaws are few and far between, and for the most part Easy A is a wonderfully entertaining film. The countless references to ‘80s movies and the absurdity of the situations Olive finds herself in keep the film from taking itself too seriously, and while the film does have a message, it is never preachy. Mostly what it is saying is that you shouldn’t be ashamed to be yourself and do what you want, a message that you, dear reader, should take to heart. So do it, go see Easy A, no matter what the beer and deoderant commercials tell you about what it means to be manly. It’s a decision you won’t regret for a second.


     


 
 

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