The sad death of John Hughes last year gives Easy A an added sense of nostalgia, and even if the film isn’t quite worthy of it’s titular A, its a good natured tribute nonetheless.
The critical response to Easy A has been largely positive, and it’s generally deserved. Emma Stone has gathered a lot of the attention for herself – and fair enough, she’s very good – but on the whole it’s a cut above your average teen comedy, not afraid to be intelligent and wry where other films might be crass and immature. That said, no one is claiming the film doesn’t have a sense of fun: a drawn out scene involving a staged sexual encounter, for example, isn’t afraid to be crude.
This sexual encounter (or lack of) comes as a direct result of the film’s premise, in which Olive (Stone) lies to her best friend that she slept with a guy at the weekend. This little white lie gets overheard by Marianne (played with expressive vigour by Amanda Bynes) the school’s premier fanatical Christian, who sees to it that the rumour spreads like wildfire. One thing leads to another, and soon Olive (in the scene referenced above) pretends to have sex with a gay guy to stop the school bullies from giving him a hard time. And so the cycle begins. Incidentally, the short scene after their non-existent sex is one of the simplest and most effective in the movie, as Brandon leaves the room to a crowd of braying jocks keen to congratulate him on his triumph, while Olive comes out looking like a whore and is immediately looked down upon in her peers’ eyes.
Quite why Olive persists with her cycle of lies to the extent that she does is questionable, but thanks to Emma Stone’s likeable, good-natured performance, we don’t bother to question it too much. As a result, when things begin to get out of hand, we end up feeling sympathy rather than irritation towards our heroine; who, it is worth noting, is modelled on Hester Prynn, protagonist in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the literary heart of the film. The film doesn’t stick rigidly to its source material, but does capture some of the same themes of Hawthorne’s classic and updates them in an interesting way.
The film has enough little surprises along the way that it never feels too much like something we’ve seen before (although a lot of it we have) and credit should go to Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, as Olive’s seemingly carefree parents, for providing a lot of the best laughs. The film’s funniest moment comes courtesy of Tucci, the writers making swift but brilliant use of adoption humour.
Perhaps the film isn’t as funny as it could have been, perhaps it’s all a little over familiar at times, but it does enough to warrant the ticket price by virtue of its game cast and unpredictable script. Not a classic of the genre, but not a thousand miles away either, Will Gluck’s Easy A will provide a good night’s entertainment and is probably a lot better than you think it is.