December 7, 2010

03.12: EASY A

Would it be terrible if I said
"the writing's on the wall"?
Much like 10 Things I Hate About You was a high-school set retelling of Taming of the Shrew, the Emma Stone star vehicle Easy A is a comedic high-school spin on The Scarlet Letter. It’s a smart and sassy film; much like its lead actress.

This type of film stands or falls on the strength of its lead; there’s no doubting that this is a star vehicle crafted for up and coming Emma Stone. Easy A can stand tall, as Emma Stone, despite her relative lack of acting experience, is a winning screen presence and a fine comedic actress. This is her Mean Girls. Or, considering where Lindsay Lohan is now, hopefully more her Juno.

In fact, those two films are an excellent indication of where this is aiming: Easy A has all the sharp wit and intelligence of Tina Fey’s script for Mean Girls and the quirk and snappy dialogue inherent to Diablo Cody’s Juno. I know some may be put off by the deliberately quirky touches and the highly intelligent, pop-culturally knowing dialogue but it was all done so well it just became part of the cloth of the film.

Emma Stone stars as fairly anonymous high-schooler Olive; she’s not the most popular girl in school, but neither is she ostracised. That is, not until one little lie about a non-existent one-night stand spins out of control. It is then she experiences these two extremes of high-school: she's popular with all the boys while the ostracism is lead by Amanda Bynes’ short skirted moral crusader. She’s fine enough as the snooty Christian, even if Mandy Moore did it better in Saved! and the film (bravely it must be said) takes real aim at the Christian characters: none of them make it out unscathed. In the midst of it all Olive starts to relish the role of school harlot, playing up to it and helping out some less than popular guys with fake trysts, before she discovers what a double-edged sword that kind of rep can be. Especially when her best friend turns on her.

The real scene stealers are Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the requisite caring and kooky parents. Both of them are obviously having a lot of fun with their roles, Tucci scoring a lot of the really choice lines and Clarkson doing something strangely wonderful: she seems like an old flower child, ditzy at times but with a lot of smarts. Thomas Haden Church also hands in a wonderfully dry performance as Olive's favourite teacher, Mr. Griffith while Lisa Kudrow relishes her role as his wife and school guidance counsellor Mrs. Griffith; who is something of an uncaring bitch. Or at least a harried, unsympathetic character.

The difference between what is acceptable sexual behaviour for a young man and what is acceptable for a young woman is acknowledged (how could it not be?) but never focused specifically on. And by that, I mean it's one of the themes of the film but not one they get too caught up in hammering away at. Which is fine as it's a self-evident dynamic. We do get a mix in and mention of John Hughes and his classic 80's teen romances, with an appropriate homage in the third act.

My only real issue is that it all doesn't quite feel as good as it could. It is very, very good and more than enjoyable: it's breezy, funny and doesn't dumb things down. I just felt some things needed to be tightened up just that little bit more, such as the rushed resolution with Olive's best friend and not all the performances are out-and-out stellar.

But this are piffling gripes! It's a real joy to watch a film (a rom-com no less) with a strong female lead character. This really is Emma Stone's film; it's her first starring role and is really her debut as a bonafide movie star. She's an intelligent comedic actress with charm, chutzpah and charisma. It'll be interesting to see where her career takes her from here.


  1. I applaud your use of 'chutzpah' and look forward to renting this one, as it finished at the cinema before we got to see it.

  2. Oh gods... I just noticed I said "But this are piffling gripes!" Me am have degree. Me am smart with the England speak.

    This are piffling gripes... My lord.