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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.82%
Worth A Look47.06%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 17.65%
Total Crap: 20.59%

4 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Easy A
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by Erik Childress

"Grading On A Curve. A BIG Curve."
2 stars

The concept behind Easy A is one of the most difficult to pull off in recent memory. Imagine you are a screenwriter for a second and are handed note cards with the following things written on them: teenage prostitution, popularity, high school scandal, religious persecution, Hyster Prynne and comedy. Now go craft a script around them. We cannot envy anyone put into that position, but to willingly be the one to write the note cards must be some kind of morally grounded genius aware of how to toe the line between provocative and offensive. Will Gluck and Bert V. Royal are neither provocateurs nor geniuses so it’s not much of a surprise that Easy A steps wrong from the ground running and can never find a way to right its footing. If it were not for the charming lead performance by Emma Stone anchoring this film, we would be less distracted from what a true mess it really is.

Stone plays Olive, who begins narrating her story to us through her computer. She tells us at her high school she is one of the invisible students that no one pays attention to and no boy ever notices. This is defined by having a supposedly pretty girl bump into her rather than Olive actually being best friends with possibly the hottest girl at her school, Rhiannon (Aly Mikayla). In an uncalculated moment to cover up her boring weekend, Olive tells Rhiannon that she slept with some older guy. Listening in to the details is the most pious girl in school, Marianne (Amanda Bynes) who spreads the rumor until word gets out that she is the campus tramp. When she defends herself in class, she gets detention with another boy apparently just defending himself from the self-righteous bullies surrounding them.

Brandon (Dan Byrd) is gay but remains closeted, thus sparking an idea to keep the wolves at bay until he can put high school in his rearview mirror. He asks Olive to use her newfound reputation to make everyone believe that they had sex, which she agrees to do at a big party; a scene that is a comic highlight for Stone and an underused Byrd. Further cementing her status among classmates, Olive rebels by playing up to their expectations; dressing a bit scantily and wearing a big red “A” on her chest like the scandal-plagued heroine they’ve been reading about in the class of her favorite teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church). Next thing she knows, nerds and outcasts are coming out from the shadows to ask for her assistance as well, to which they will pay her in gift cards for the rumors of their dalliances. It would be here that I might hint at the potential consequences of all this or how the secrets will affect those closest to her. In what might be the most provocative concept on hand though, none of those people really seem to care.

The overriding theme hovering over Easy A is tolerance, or more directly, zero tolerance. As directly portrayed by a bad word or possibly defending yourself from bad words, Olive & Brandon are both put to blame while the school principal (Malcolm McDowell) clearly won't listen to their stories. Aside from what seems to be a very small clique of Bible thumpers, this school is not an enforcement of Christian values liked in the film Saved. (Though their mascot was changed from a Blue Devil to a Woodchuck.) Jump ahead to Olive's antics which reveal further scandalous behavior on campus featuring Marianne's four-time held back boyfriend discovering he has an STD, a hit that Olive is willing to own up to her accusers in order to shield the real tainted party.

Whether you are viewing Easy A through the goggles of a shocked parent or a filmgoer with an eye for consistency, the Chlamydia development will only fog them over further. Olive's relationship with the real culprit is not developed enough in order to believe that such a smart and sarcastic teenager would reach out to assist them. Royal's script also switches gears on this scandal so abruptly that we have no time to process either the sacrifice nor the eventual crucifixion. The same goes for the unpopular kids partaking in Olive's services. Any sympathy for their situation is lost upon introduction since none are developed beyond needing a fake lay to bolster their reputation. Olive smartly calls out one self-described "fat piece of shit" but then it becomes business as usual. Royal's script may have been a bit more provocative if the nerds discovered that bagging the school slut is roughly the equivalent of everyone in the world having superpowers. When everyone is special, nobody is.

"A real whore can't admit it to herself, let alone others," says school counseler Lisa Kudrow in one of the film's gateway insights into selling sex (in any metaphor) for celebrity status. Olive's psyche for the nicer romance side has been formed by '80s teen cinema for which we get a montage of classic moments from Say Anything, Sixteen Candles and from the much-much-much-lesser classic, Can't Buy Me Love, to drive home the film's concept. As sharp as Olive is presented with her comebacks, she is hardly one step ahead of potential suitors late in the film. One clearly asks her out expecting a little dessert at the end of the night, which she fails to realize until he's all over her in the parking lot. And her real crush, the school's mascot Todd (Penn Badgeley) drifts in and out of the film until a redux of The Thompson Twins' "If You Were Here" is playing on the soundtrack while the invisible redhead and the hot guy (who looks old enough to be out of college) she always liked are sitting face-to-face in his car. More homage than irony, Gluck fails to realize he is only reasserting a teenage girl's fantasy instead of the reality. Only this time it involves a fantasy of prostitution.

After terrific (and very different) supporting turns in Superbad, The Rocker, The House Bunny and Zombieland, Emma Stone finally getting a chance to take the lead may be the one good thing that comes out of Easy A. She's a natural comedienne who can play sweet, sardonic, nerdy and wicked and in Easy A she gets to play all four. Royal's screenplay and the uneven direction by Will Gluck (whose Fired Up was one of the very worst films of 2009) does vast injustices to her performance though by undercutting her character with a narrative that has clearly been put through the slicer to either secure a PG-13 rating or because someone fell asleep in the editing room. Olive actually has a follow-up gag about Mark Twain on a statement she hasn't even made yet since her narration stems from a webcast made at the end of the story.

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson add some welcome comic support as Olive's too-cool-for-school parents whom. as we see it. could be ex-hippies, ex-gay, ex-slut and current bi-racial adopters all rolled into one. Satire could have been found in their ultra-tolerance vs. the rumor mill of the TMZ/Facebook era, but in Easy A you will have an easier time picking out the song that samples the love theme from John Carpenter's Starman. Easy A would like to be the new Clueless or Mean Girls only it fails to either create a new language to emulate or to cohesively melt one that they understand into a gossip pot of narrow-mindedness and politically correct hypocrisy. It's a shame to see Stone reteaming with Gluck for a film called (I kid you not) Friends with Benefits as she is great enough to bring-to-life characters from A-listers like Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks and Alexander Payne, writer/directors who could have taken the impossible premise of Easy A and made it live up to its title.

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originally posted: 09/17/10 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/17/14 Charles Tatum Very smart and funny 5 stars
1/28/12 Kathryn Martinez Good story line and loved the main character's development 4 stars
6/30/11 Kim Phan Loved it! Great Comedy. Good take on an old story~ 4 stars
6/26/11 John Airey Funny and witty movie B+ 3 stars
6/16/11 My apples are rotting Vacuous and overrated. What's the deal with Stone? She's average at best 1 stars
1/24/11 bill norris loved this homage to Hughes! 5 stars
10/29/10 Kim Kelly I know the critics have their issues but I loved it, saw it twice! Feel good and funny. 5 stars
10/01/10 K. T. Washington Hilarious, yet sad to say in a sense true of highschool reps... 4 stars
9/22/10 Ronald Holst I will give This an Easy C 3 stars
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  17-Sep-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2010

  22-Oct-2010 (15)

  16-Sep-2010 (M)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2010

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