Film criticism by Ian Kay.

“Easy A” (2010), dir. Will Gluck

John  Hughes may have recognized his influence in this teeny-bopper film (not to mention that his own movies are referenced several times), but he never would have directed it.  The angst and adolescent euphoria that pervaded Hughes’ movies in the 80’s is nowhere to be found in Easy A.  But this film is a postmodern homage in an era of disillusionment, not an insightful tribute to youth, and it is very entertaining and smoothly performed by an impressive cast.

Emma Stone is quickly becoming a star, displaying incredible depth for a twenty-two year old. Here she plays Olive, a smart high school girl who, while not exactly a nerd, isn’t popular either. Although a girl of Stone’s looks and wit would certainly not be shunned by real high school boys, we are told that she is not only a virgin, but is never asked out on dates. Olive’s parents (played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, in the two best performances of the film) are of the “treat your kid like an adult” variety, laughing at her detention, prodding into Olive’s life only when something is obviously not going well.  Usually, teen-movie parents are either strict, out-of-touch task masters or easy going hippies who are “cool” except that they never actually pay attention to their kids. Screenwriter Bert Royal refreshingly has Dill and Rosemary (hippie names, to be sure) act like mature parents when they are called upon to do so. And yet they are still irreverent and funny.

Thomas Jefferson is credited for saying, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time till at length it becomes habitual.” And Olive finds this to be only too true.  In an attempt to be cool, she lies and says that she slept with a college boy. Rumor, these days aided exponentially by text messaging, flies, and soon Olive gets a reputation.

The plot is launched when Olive’s gay friend, Brandon, bribes her into letting people think they have slept together. He sites her new reputation as the credibility he needs. This is one of the few times in the film when a touch of real high school issues rears its head. Brandon is so desperate to erase his reputation as a homosexual that he is in tears begging Olive to help him. From there, it snowballs. An overweight boy approaches Olive next, again bribing her to allow the rumor to spread (though this time it’s just grab-ass). And so on until, according to rumor, Olive has literally become the school whore.

In an act typical of frustrated adolescence, Olive runs with her new persona. She redesigns her clothing, and sews a large red “A” on her shirt. As Olive herself mentions (one of many self-references in the script), so often the book you are reading ends up being reflected in your real life (at least in the movies). And just by chance, her favorite teacher has assigned The Scarlett Letter, in which an early American puritanical town forces a woman to wear a red “A”, which stands for “Adulterer”.

The remainder of the film deals with three things: regaining her reputation, erasing the damage she has done to others, and winning the love of her childhood sweetheart. All of these are predictable and fairly irrelevant to the entertainment value of the film. The witty dialogue and fine, light performances of the chief players carry us through a happy ending that leaves us smiling and amused, even as we start to forget the plot as we walk away.


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