I went to see another preview screening last night, one I had extremely low expectations for — Easy A. Even though it was showing at a mainstream cinema, I thought the turn out was going to be relatively small. Boy was I wrong! The cinema was packed out with people lining up way in advance to see this Will Gluck-directed teen comedy, featuring an all-star cast headed by the up-and-coming Emma Stone (I last saw her in Zombieland). Luckily, with my (ahem) press credentials, I avoided the crowd and the security check.
My first instinct was that Easy A was going to be another hopeless teen flick that’s stupid, vulgar, and not particularly funny. Wrong again. As it turned out, Easy A was, suprisingly, a rare teen flick that’s actually funny and clever!
Emma Stone plays Olive, a super-nice, witty and “normal” high school girl who one day decides to lie about a sexual encounter to her best friend. And before she knows it, the school rumour mill turns Olive into the local skank. As her life spirals out of control, Olive begins to see the parallels between her life and that of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary classic, The Scarlet Letter (hence the “A” in Easy A). I know it doesn’t sound all that great but don’t let that put you off.
Easy A‘s impressive all-star cast is led by Emma Stone, who carries the film from start to finish as the immensely likable and endearing Olive. If this film takes off she’s going to be huge. Amanda Bynes plays her arch-nemesis, the ultra-religious Marianne (with Cam Gigandet from Twilight as her dim-witted boyfriend), while Penn Badgley plays the too-nice, always-around Woodchuck Todd (it was worth putting up with him just for the Gossip Girl reference) and Dan Byrd (from The Hills Have Eyes) is Brandon, the obvious closet homosexual. Others include Thomas Haden Church as the wonderful teacher, Lisa Kudrow as the guidance counsellor, and Malcolm McDowell as the principal. But it’s Olive’s quirky parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, that absolutely steal the show with their crazy antics.
My problems with Easy A are relatively minor. First of all, it’s hard to buy Emma Stone (as pretty and sassy and witty as she is in this film) as just an “ordinary” girl who was virtually invisible at her school before gossip made her notorious. Why the heck would she not have been a superstar at school? Secondly, it doesn’t really make sense that someone as sensible and intelligent as her would ever want to perpetuate vicious rumours in order to become more “popular” amongst her peers. And thirdly, there were times when she was simply too nice to be believable. But if you can overlook those things, Easy A is a stand-out teen comedy in almost every other way.
Easy A is a throwback (or even a homage) to those classic 80s films made by John Hughes, such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off (there are numerous references to them throughout the film). There’s a huge cast of characters, mostly caricatures but at least with interesting quirks. The story is compelling but grounded and at least semi-plausible. It’s funny without being outrageously hilarious or over-the-top. And there’s a social message about high school life (in this case, how gossip can get out of hand) that adds a dash of poignancy to the whole affair. It doesn’t quite reach “classic” status, or at least not yet, but considering the crap teen comedies that have been churned out in recent years, Easy A is a refreshing, pleasant surprise.
3.75 stars out of 5