Review: Easy A

It’s funny how a good movie trailer can reel you in, in this case a snappy package that promises snappy dialogue and performances in a teen comedy with a brain. Easy A doesn’t quite deliver but it has fun trying.

In the sunny, buttoned up community of Ojai, California, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone, Zombieland) is by no means an ‘IT Girl’ at school but when she tells a saucy white lie, rumour spreads like wildfire through the social networking superhighway that she’s lost her “V card” (that’s virginity to you and I) and more. In short, the lady’s a tramp and Olive isn’t about to spurn her new found popularity, instead embracing the lie complete with “whore couture” emblazoned with the letter of shame, just like the condemned Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter which she happens to be studying in class.

The ruse has side benefits. In exchange for gift cards to her favourite stores, Olive allows the school’s nerds to spread the word that she’s “fake rocked” their world. Things quickly get out of control as the lie starts to have adverse effects with a backlash of lynch mob proportions. Fanning the moral outrage is the patronising god-botherer Marianne (Amanda Bynes, Hairspray) who spread the rumour in the first place -“Jesus tells us to love everyone,” she preaches. “Even the whores and homosexuals.”

You have to wonder why a gal, one that hardly looks like she’d be an outcast, should have to resort to being a faux hoe to gain popularity. Even so it’s entertaining to watch her try. A scene where Olive and tortured, gay Brandon (Cougar Town’s terrifically sardonic Dan Byrd) fake a romp of ecstasy is Easy A’s funniest and most beautifully played. It’s a shame that that’s the er….climax of what this comedy could have been.

It seems that writer Bert V. Royal and director Will Gluck (Fired Up) are aiming for a sophisticated John Hughesian teen comedy for the naughties and they have mixed success. Some of the comedy falls flat while other times it sparkles with edginess. There’s a fair whiff of Dawson’s Creek Syndrome too – that is, teens sprouting eloquence and witticisms way beyond theirs or anyone’s years and it can be a little too smug, smart and self aware.

Literary references from Hawthorne to Silvia Plath and Mark Twain are poured on thick and while this reviewer welcomes some raunch and profanity, here the mix doesn’t quite gel with the result a little too much resembling a female ‘American Pie’. That’s saying something given no one really gets laid.

Easy A earns good grades for some impressive performances (bar Lisa Kudrow who pretty much phones it in, regurgitating her kooky Phoebe Friends shtick as as a councilor). Stone proves a caustic and fearless talent while Cairo Time’s Patricia Clarkson (making a rare foray into the mainstream) and The Devil Wears Prada’s Stanley Tucci as Olive’s off-kilter, non-judgmental parents are charming and have a lot of fun with their roles.

The filmmakers have made nice work of highlighting the fight between a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach, with all the puritanical outrage and infamy that follows, versus that of standing up and being yourself. No prizes for guessing which approach wins – it’s hammered home and resolved in much too neat a bow- but then this is Hollywood. It’s a film not quite worthy of an Easy A but we’ll give it an E for Effort.

Easy A is released nationally in Australia on the 16th of September.

Director: Will Gluck.

Cast: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Haden Church, Malcolm McDowell, Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka, Penn Badgley

About James Mitchell

James Mitchell is currently penning his bio.