Easy A (2010) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual situations, language, and some drug content
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgely, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci
Small role: Fred Armisen
Director: Will Gluck
Screenplay: Bert V. Royal
Review published July 7, 2013
Easy A is narrated by its main character, Olive Perderghast (Stone, Zombieland), who records a vlog (video blog) on the internet explaining the actions that we come to see through the course of the movie. Inspired by an assignment to read Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" in high school English class, wherein a woman named Hester Prynne is scorned by her adulterous affair and forced to wear a red 'A' on her dress.
The ball gets rolling after Olive reveals to her friend Rhiannon (Michalka, Bandslam) that she had lost her virginity to a college guy in a tryst that never happened. From Rhiannon, it soon spreads around the Ojai, CA-based school, eventually earning Olive a reputation of being the school slut. Rather than rail whole-hog against it, Olive uses her already-tarnished reputation, bolstered by her enmity with celibacy-celebrating school Bible-thumper Marianne (Bynes, Robots) , as a money-making opportunity, agreeing to take money (in the form of gift cards) from nerdy high school students in order to back up their stories that they lost their virginities with her. But, while bolstering boys reputations comes at a cost, Olive wonders if the cost for a loose reputation comes at one too high for money to buy, as she struggles to find a boy to look at her beyond her reputation.
If Easy A succeeds at all, it's through its appealing cast, especially in star Stone, who maintains a light, buoyant, and energetic tone that is spot-on for the kind of silly comedy director Will Gluck (Friends with Benefits) paints it as. Clarkson (Shutter Island) and Tucci (What Just Happened) are fun as Olive's liberal parents, while Church (Smart People) and Kudrow (PS I Love You), as a married couple working at the school as the English teacher and school counselor, respectively, gets some amusement before their story goes a bit farther than necessary, theme-wise. Even if they aren't fully fleshed out, it's refreshing to see a modern teen comedy portray adults as people who aren't complete idiots, zealots, or just plain absent from the lives of those they are supposed to tend to.
There are perhaps too many characters for a 92-minute feature to support fully, with lots of little interesting anecdotal material for each of them that keeps most of the personalities limited to only one facet for servicing the main plot. As with most high school comedies with a racy undercurrent, the actors are in their 20s, some too obvious to not consider a distraction at times. Royal's screenplay suggests the film owes its roots to the films of the 1980s, particularly the works of John Hughes, but Gluck's directorial sensibilities definitely run toward more recent efforts like Mean Girls, Saved! and Clueless, plus the post-Nickelodeon glut of tween TV cheeky self-awareness where the protagonist often talks to the camera to tell us the running commentary of her life.
Easy A is very of its era, embracing the social media age by using it quite fully in the course of the script by first-timer Bert V. Royal , including YouTube postings and texts that spread salacious school gossip at a rapid pace -- Olive losing her V (virginity) goes V (for Viral), and soon she too is wearing the letter A on increasingly skimpier outfits she wears to school. Pop culture references are part of the fun, though the film does often feel like a collection of advertisements, especially for the myriad of chain stores in which Olive accumulates gift cards.
Easy A plays more like a television show than a movie, and some might see it as a kindred spirit to the FOX show, "Glee" in its candy-coated camp approach to colorful high school cliques and cheeky views on teen sexuality. It's lighthearted and infectious enough to win over those not looking for much more than sitcom-level antics done with occasional wit and flair. It's marginal, cartoonish entertainment at best, and will likely be forgotten as entertainment continues to capture more and more the ways that teens communicate with one another in the perpetual-fishbowl of the social media age, but for an amusing diversion, it doesn't get an easy A, but I'd give it a respectable B-.
©2013 Vince Leo