In a breakout role, Emma Stone moves from Superbad to super smart
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V. Royal
Cinematographer: Michael Grady
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow
Studio/Running Time: Screen Gems, 92 min.
Countless comedies have played up the singularly unique experience called high school. Most have faded into late night obscurity while a few like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless and Mean Girls have offered witty accounts of this near ancient ritual of teen life. Easy A, highlighting teenage promiscuity and social prejudice, actually elevates the genre to a higher level of intelligence. Oh, and it’s funny, too.
Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland) plays Olive, an unremarkable schoolgirl who pretends to have sex with a gay student who’s being persecuted. But improving his reputation ruins hers as she is branded the school whore. A villainous, goody-two-shoes leader of the school’s severely misguided Christian youth group, gives Olive the royal Scarlet Letter treatment. In retaliation, Olive embraces her new persona by dressing the part and continuing the charade, partly to help the reps of the school’s less attractive hetero males and partly to get back at the hypocritical attacks. The ruse, however, leads to the unexpected consequences of broken friendships and the discovery of a particularly dysfunctional student-teacher relationship.
Stanly Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are exceptional as Olive’s freestyling parents. Stone adeptly keeps up with their rapid-fire quips and unconventional, but sage advice. They may not be the Cleavers, but you immediately wish to be a part of their family.
The final act starts slowly but moves to a rewarding ending which pays homage to Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. Yes, there are the occasional clichés of academia, but a fresh script elicits some impressive performances—Thomas Haden Church as the hip-but-caring teacher; Lisa Kudrow as the not-so-hip, insecure counselor; Malcolm McDowell as the don’t-care-about-hip, no-nonsense principal. Even Fred Armisen does a brief cameo as a pastor.
Although the film grows with subtle messages on social intolerance and the good and bad of marriage and family, Easy A never comes close to preaching or talking down. In fact, director Will Gluck most likely had no intention of making a message movie. It stands on its own as a smart comedy from start to finish. But like a candy-flavored elixir the morality is in there. It just goes down easy.