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Easy A (2010)

January 27, 2011

written by: Bert V. Royal
produced by: Will Gluck & Zane Devine
directed by: Will Gluck 
rated PG-13 (for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material)
92 min.
U.S. release date: Spetember 17, 2010
DVD/Bluray release date: December 21, 2010
 
 
When I finally caught up with ” Easy A” on DVD it was after months of thinking it was yet another cutesy high school sex comedy. Being wrong about a movie is a delight when you’re thoroughly entertained and that’s exactly how I responded to director Will Gluck’s seldom-seen gem. It’s not easy to find a decent comedy, but this breezy and clever movie is proof that they’re out there. Combining classic lit with a sweet, dirty-minded charm, this is the only recent comedy that delivers something fun, unique and different, while paying homage to previous teen classics.
Olive Penderghast  (Emma Stone) is a teen conundrum. She is not insecure, a gossiper or a backstabber. Nor is she ditzy, superficial or shallow. In fact, Olive is the complete opposite of all those typical teen screen portrayals. But, she is a liar. Well, it wasn’t intentional. To dodge her pushy and overbearing BFF,  Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), Olive winds up lying about her boring weekend at home by creating a fictional sexual escapade. It’s one of those lies you tell to get out of a situation, only this on backfires in the worst way. 
 
 

 
 
In no time, the whole school thinks Olive is a promiscuous hussy, in other words, she’s “Easy”. This warrants an unusual amount of interest in her, especially from guys (which is baffling since she seems pretty cool, but we know how teen boys can be).  Seeing no way around her new status, Olive makes the most of it by helping out her down-trodden peers (the gay or overweight students), by embellishing and legitimizing made-up stories to boost their own status. For a fee, of course. Olive can’t help herself, part of her feels bad for these classmates and part of her feels good about all the attention she is getting.
 
This can’t last forever though, since we know that eventually the truth will be revealed.  Before that can occur though, Olive is chastised by her obnoxiously Christian classmate, Marianne (a hilarious Amanda Bynes) and her Holy Crew. This even gets her into some unexpected awkwardness with the cool teacher (a great Thomas Hayden Church), an unhinged counselor (a fun Lisa Kudrow) and her composed principal (a great Malcolm McDowell), at Ojai North High School (pronounced “oh-hi”). All the while, Olive embraces the rumor mill by attaching a giant letter A to all her clothes, something only those who had done their Nathaniel Hawthorne homework would understand.
 
 

 
 
The combination of Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal is an energized delight, brimming with satire and enthusiasm. There’s a pop-culture awareness present, thankfully never nearly as blatant as “Juno”, allowing the audience to nod and smile in acknowledgement. Narration can be a tricky element, often feeling like a gimmick or an excuse to fill the audience in. Not here. It makes sense that Olive invites us into her life via webcast in a playful way. What teen isn’t tech savvy? Her voice overs are witty, reflective and slightly self-effacing, making Olive all the more endearing. This approach also includes the audience, allowing Stone to let us know about her thoughts and plans before anyone else in the film, often with some quotable zingers to boot.
 
In a welcome twist, “Easy A” provides fantastic supporting adult characters that coexist with somewhat familiar teen roles. Olive’s peers certainly are fun to watch, but when Gluck focuses on the adults in her school, you will be impressed with their honest, genuine and funny characterization. This is the rare teen flick that doesn’t treat the adults like clueless idiots or ignorant buffoons, something that can prominently found in Olive’s parents. That’s right, she has two parents. Imagine that! And they’re in love. Some of the best scenes in the entire movie are with at home with Dill (a splendid Stanley Tucci) and Rosemary (a spirited Patricia Clarkson), Olive’s cool parents. Like Juno’s dad and stepmom, these two are trusting, patient, and understanding, with an enjoyable dash of sarcasm which provides an infectious family dynamic.
 
I could gladly do with a weekly sitcom of the Penderghast family. The time spent with them puts Olive’s disposition into perspective. It’s no wonder she is generous, resilient and confident. Her parents are open (at times hilariously so) and know when to just listen and let Olive make decisions on her own. Again, very rare for a teen comedy. Witnessing this made me shake my head at how I initially discounted the movie.
 
 

 
 
While many of the performances are fantastic, this is Emma Stone’s movie and she carries it effortlessly. Her talent stood out in last year’s “Zombieland” and soon we’ll see her swinging with Spider-Man as Gwen Stacy. Anyone who may be in doubt of Stone’s skills must check this out, the girl can carry a film. She’s irresistably easy to follow on-screen with her believable presence and comedic timing. But she also knows how to balance humorous moments with more serious scenes, in which she grounds the film with more reality than anyone else around her. I’m always pleased to see a well-written female role that breaks stereotypes and can be enjoyed by any gender or age, but I’m even more pleased to see an actor enjoy as immensely as Stone does. This girl’s a keeper.  
 
“Easy A” surprised and charmed me and wound up being one of the most enjoyable movies of 2010, but it’s not without its flaws. Several of the teen characters feel somewhat underdeveloped due to their stereotype, yet it’s understandable that they’re not as fully realized as Olive. When story supplies such rich adults, it’s hard to pick nits. There’s also some blatant acknowledgement of the work of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, which makes sense, considering what we have here. Like its main character “Easy A” is a sharp and playful movie that will not waste your time.
 
 
RATING: ***1/2 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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