Easy A (2010)
Well isn’t this the nicest little surprise of the year.
Easy A is about a straight-laced High School teen who lies to her nagging friend about how she lost her V-card over the weekend, is overheard by the head of the school’s God Squad, and before she knows it, the rumors snowball and her gossipy peers quickly peg her as the resident skank. Rather than deny it to the teeth, she takes her new found bad girl rep and runs with it by letting the most desperate of social outcasts shower her with gift cards in return for sexual bragging rights and subsequent popularity despite their virginity remaining intact. As one can imagine, this poorly thought-out plan soon starts to backfire and our girl finds herself scrambling to clear her good name and undo the damage that tends to come with pretending you’re all loosie goosie and such.
So it’s a modern-day re-telling of sorts of The Scarlet Letter – aka: that effing book that everyone had to read in High School and in turn introduced us to the wonders of Cliffs Notes after coming to the realization that we just read the same paragraph thirty times before we could even hit chapter two (or maybe that was just me). Yeah, not the biggest fan of that puppy and it wasn’t until I could no longer ignore the tidal wave of praise this got around the blogosphere that I stopped writing it off as this year’s mandatory girlie tween comedy. And if that 8 up there hasn’t given it away yet, this is exactly why it pays to see movies despite your preconceptions.
It’s the debut directorial effort by one Will Gluck, it’s the debut script by writer Bert V. Royal, and I don’t know where the hell these guys came from, but The Scarlet Letter has never been this entertaining. Well, Gluck actually does a fine job behind the camera and I dug the moments where he’d zoom around the High School campus (which looks to be roughly the size of Utah) from clique to clique whenever a new rumor started to spread, but Royal’s the one worth writing to grandma about. Folks, this script is right up there with Mean Girls when it comes to the best-written teen comedies of the past decade. Yeah, a lot of this would probably never happen in real life, but you go with it because it’s so damn funny, because it’s working in the vein of movies like Say Anything and Sixteen Candles, and it lets the cast have a freakin’ ball with their lines.
I just love how self-aware, contemporary and true-to-life it is. Whether it’s a teacher going off on how he doesn’t understand why someone would post a status update on Facebook about how they raised the roof after buying a Coke Zero at a gas station, or even our girl telling us to watch the original black-and-white version of The Scarlet Letter instead of the Demi Moore-nude-in-a-bathtub remake if we’re not gonna read the book, all of it’s hilarious and it’s got a nice little (if obvious) moral to boot. It’s still a far cry from my days in High School, but
And, yeah, the cast rocks.
Thomas Haden Church is great as that teacher who can’t wrap his head around status updates (why isn’t he in more stuff?); Lisa Kudrow ain’t bad in her unusually bitchy role as the school guidance counselor; a pre-retirement Amanda Bynes is good as the said God Squader who triggers all this drama to begin with; Fred Armisen is a priest; and there’s a handful of other kids who I think I recognize from the CW or Twilight or some shit who are all pretty good, too. I gotta say though, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson nearly steal the show as the nicest and funniest parents on the planet. God, what can’t Stanley Tucci do? He’s always been out of sight as a serious actor, but the guy had me flat-out howling with choice lines about making sure to check “Watching The Bucket List” off his Bucket List during family movie night along with asking his adopted black son, “So where are you from originally?” Pretty atypical roles for these two, but they are somehow perfect.
But this right here is Emma Stone’s show in a big ol’ way. Only know her from Superbad and Zombieland, but those were awesome, she was darn solid in both of ’em, and she’s even more awesome as our 21st Century Hester Prynne, Olive. From the moment we watch her spend an entire weekend slowly obsessing over Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocket Full of Sunshine” while painting her dog’s toenails and giving herself a mohawk in the shower, you can’t help but love the gal. Stone just does a stellar job of making Olive feel like a real teenage girl with a great sense of humor, a brain and a heart. Olive’s a blast to hang out with and it’s ’cause of Stone that she ends up being one of the most memorable female performances of the year.
Girl, you earned that spot as Gwen Stacy.
The only bummer here is that there are so many characters going on at once that they tend to show up for five minutes, play an integral part to the story, then disappear indefinitely, only reappearing for some choice silent cameos that usually involve sulking or squinting angrily. They all serve their purpose and there’s not a character of the bunch that isn’t fun to watch, but it would have been nice if it didn’t jump around so much and just gave us more Church, Tucci and Stone instead.
And Kudrow’s character is totally absurd. I’m sure there are some shitty counselors out there, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one whose idea of “guidance” boils down to throwing a handful of condoms at a student and telling them to skedaddle. What a bitch, Phoebe would never pull that crap.
Judging by the impression I got from all the ho-hum trailers that ran for this over the Summer, I never thought I’d be writing about how Easy A is actually kind of great, but it absolutely is and it’s one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve sat through in quite a while. Can’t wait to see more from everyone involved in this movie, it had me smiling and laughing like crazy the whole damn time, and if more teen comedies were this good, I’d gladly spend the money to support ’em.
John Hughes would be proud.