Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Easy A" (2010)

Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley and Amanda Bynes
Written by Bert V. Royal
Directed by Will Gluck

Easy A [Blu-ray]Emma Stone stars in this 2010 teen comedy inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."  It might seem like an odd sort of source material to turn into a teen comedy, but a deft script brought to life by an energetic and likable cast makes "Easy A" a winner.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) lies about having a date with an older man in order to get out of going camping with her friend Rhianna (Aly Michalka) and Rhianna's hippie pothead parents.  When Rhianna presses her for details about the date, Olive somehow falls into a lie about losing her virginity.  Unfortunately, this conversation is overheard by Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes), a "stuck-up Jesus freak" and soon enough, Olive finds that her supposed tryst has become public knowledge.  Boys she's never spoken to before are suddenly approaching her, and Marianne's conservative religious clique begin a vicious slander campaign.

Calling one of these jerks a "twat" in class lands Olive in the office of Principal Gibbons (Malcolm McDowell) who orders her to detention.  There she reconnects with an old friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd), who reveals to her that he's gay, which she already mostly knew anyway.  Together the two of them concoct a plan to use her newfound reputation to save his.  The next night, the two of them pretend to have a ludicrous, drunken sexual encounter at a party attended by a large number of their peers.  Soon enough, other boys are coming to Olive and offering her cash and gift cards in order to further their reputations by telling everyone that they've performed various sexual acts with Olive.

All the while, as the lies compound and Olive's situation gets crazier and crazier, it begins to destroy her relationship with Rhianna, and she ultimately becomes a pariah amongst the student body.  When one of the rumors goes too far and may end up destroying the marriage of her favorite teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Hayden Church), Olive realizes she has to come clean with the truth - the only problem is that none of her "clients" are willing to do so.

Let me put this plainly: "Easy A" is a riot.  A lot of this rests purely on the shoulders of Emma Stone, who carries the entire film with energy and wit.  She shares great chemistry with her castmates, and pulls off a variety of comedic situations ranging from stinging sarcasm to flatout slapstick.  This girl is hilarious from head to toe, and she uses it to great effect here.  Doesn't hurt at all that she's also smoking hot, which leads to one of my smaller complaints about the movie: In the opening narration, Olive mentions that she's the kind of girl that goes mostly unnoticed by men.  Frankly, I can't imagine something like that happening.  Oh well.

Beyond that, "Easy A" has only one real failing in that its climax seems a little too quick and neat.  One might say that the film is all foreplay with a disappointing finish.  This is not to say that the film is disappointing at all, it's simply that the ending seems a bit low key compared to how wild and ridiculous it was poised to get.  But it remains solidly hilarious all the way through, so the lack of some kind of "action-packed" finale really doesn't hurt it much at all.

Aside from Stone, "Easy A" boasts a great cast with minor appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Thomas Hayden Church, Fred Armisen and Lisa Kudrow.  Amanda Bynes is pretty well perfect as the bitchy leader of the Jesus squad.  Church gets a lot of laughs as a sardonic English teacher, while Kudrow only appears briefly as his guidance counselor wife, but she plays a pivotal role nonetheless.  McDowell really only gets to shine in one scene, but he's got a rant about public schools that is just perfect. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson appear as Olive's parents, and they're a riot, too.  The awkward conversations regarding Olive's mother's own sexual history are played perfectly, and Tucci's sarcastic jests are put to excellent use.

"Easy A" is a winner.