Easy A Review

(2.5 STARS)

Easy A takes the traditional high school comedy formula and throws it on its head. Instead of a schlubby male virgin trying to get laid, it focuses on a smart, attractive young woman telling everyone she got laid. It’s an interesting premise, but director Will Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal take it too far. In the interest of being different and clever, they craft a story that rings less and less true as it goes on, until it ends in a sea of clichés, caricatures, and incredibly forced comedy. As funny as Easy A is for its first two-thirds, it’s pretty much ruined by the time the credits roll.

Olive (Emma Stone) is your average high school girl. She doesn’t stand out, but through her voiceovers, we learn she is clever—and a bit snarky. She doesn’t really date—though she does pine for a boy, Woodchuck Todd (Penn Badgley), from afar—but she’s sick of being thought of as a loser, sick of not being noticed. So she tells her best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), that she slept with a college student. And like it would at any high school, this juicy piece of gossip like travels like wildfire. Olive decides to deal with her new reputation as a slut the way her parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) tell her do deal with any problem: with a sense of humor.

It all begins when Olive’s gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) asks her for a favor: Let everyone think they had sex to deflect the rumors that he is gay. Thinking people can’t think any less of her, she agrees to help her friend, and soon, other social outcasts come to her with similar requests. And Olive embraces it all with an embroidered ‘A’ on all of her clothes (a la Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter, but not the Demi Moore version, which Olive says features far too many bathing scenes). But as things progress, and more and more vile lies are spread about Olive, she begins to think there might be a price to all this. After all, despite her reputation, she still hasn’t been asked out.

There’s no denying how funny Easy A is, and some of its humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci were especially hilarious. They’re a new breed of movie parents—dysfunctional and supportive. There’s no doubt they have an odd way about them, but they also unquestionably have their daughter’s best interest at heart. They just have an odd way of advising her. Clarkson especially is so funny, I would have no problems if she snuck into the Supporting Actress category in a year when the field is completely empty (that being said, it would never, ever happen).

But the real star of Easy A is Emma Stone. A familiar face from films like Superbad and Zombieland, she’s given the top billing here, and I think it’s a real star-making performance. Olive is a strong character, and Stone makes her really stand out. Ellen Page’s Juno annoyed the shit out of me; Olive reminds me of her, but only in the good ways.

Unfortunately, the film suffers the longer it goes on, and it eventually reached a point where I could no longer recommend it. I think the filmmakers were so concerned about fitting in all these little asides and in-jokes that they lost track of the story’s credibility. Sure, Olive’s song and dance number was funny, but I don’t think someone in her position would pull a stunt like that, and I really don’t think educators would let that happen. And while I understood Olive’s desire to strike back at her attackers by becoming what they accuse her of being, I think it went a little too far. Once Lisa Kudrow’s guidance councilor character is introduced, things get a little too preposterous. I know this is supposed to be a satire, but it takes things too far.

I also objected to the paper-thin religious nut characters, led by Amanda Bynes. Of course, every high school movie needs a stuck-up villain, but this one is so silly and over-the-top that she loses our interest almost right away. Perhaps Bynes should have stayed retired.

This was one of the hardest films for me to grade this year. It’s definitely better than your average high school comedy, and Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci, and Patricia Clarkson are joys to watch. I really thought it was a lot of fun, but its problems were so large and obvious that they somewhat ruined the experience for me. So instead of it being an easy A, I’m going to go ahead and call this one an easy B-minus.

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