Director: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone
I can pinpoint the exact moment when Will Gluck’s Easy A completely won me over. It’s when our heroine Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) announces to her parents that, for the first time ever, she’d been sent to the principal’s office and her mother responds by saying, “Oh? Did you win a medal or something?” To me, that is the best cinematic parental response since the scene in Almost Famous when Frances McDormand questions why it’s a bad thing to be called a “narc.” Well done, movie.
The film centers on Olive, a bright 17-year-old who is all but invisible at school until a rumour – one which she accidentally starts because she needs to come up with an excuse for why she couldn’t hang out with her friend, Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) – circulates that she’s lost her virginity to a college guy. Olive becomes a target of the school’s Christian militia, led by Marianne (Amanda Bynes) and, inspired by her English class’ reading of “The Scarlet Letter,” turns it around on them by proudly adorning an “A” on her clothes and embracing her new image by pretending to have sex at a party with Brandon (Dan Byrd), who is a target of bullies because he’s gay.
Soon, others are approaching Olive, asking her to pretend to have hooked up with them in order to build reputations for themselves. Olive agrees, for a price, and her reputation continues to grow. At first this seems like an all win situation, but then she begins seeing the downside: Rhiannon turns against her, joining with Marianne’s clique; she discovers that her favourite teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), is being cuckolded by his wife (Lisa Kudrow) with one of the other students (Cam Gigandet); and she learns that some people think she’s actually having sex in exchange for money and gift cards. She attempts to bring the truth to light, but none of the guys who are said to have had sex with her will back up her claims that it was all an act and so she takes to the internet in attempt to set the record straight.
Written by Bert V. Royal, Easy A is inordinately intelligent for a teen movie. It forgoes many of the typical tropes, such as focus on the prom (an event entirely unmentioned here), stupid and/or uninvolved parents (whip smart Olive is clearly a product of her parents, played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci), and a central romance driven by misunderstanding and miscommunication, substituting them for a clever, character driven story in which the protagonist finds love with someone who doesn’t believe everything he hears and instead chooses to go to the source for the truth. You do have to suspend disbelief somewhat to buy that in 2010 an entire high school would be scandalized by a student having sex, but for the most part there’s very little to find fault with in terms of the story.
Stone, in her first leading role, proves to be a real star in the making with her performance here. It’s like Hollywood took a good, long look at Lindsay Lohan’s post Mean Girls downward trajectory and decided it was time for a do-over. With a series of high profile projects (including The Help and the Spider-Man reboot) set to come out over the next two years, I think Stone is definitely building up to something good and with her incredibly winning screen presence, it feels safe to say that we’ll be seeing a lot of good things from her in the future.