Starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. Directed by Will Gluck. 92 minutes. 14A
Pretty, but unpopular ginger gives nerd her panties. Nerd uses them to brag to his friends and get semi-popular for a night. Girl gets nothing – but unnecessarily harassed by a blonde, preppy bitch and a few geeks with hormonal agendas. It’s almost too easy to find eerie similarities between Easy A and Sixteen Candles. And every other John Hughes teen movie made before 1987, for that matter.
The adolscent auteur may have passed on last year, but his spirit is alive and well in this Scarlett Letter-inspired teen flick. Easy A takes place in 2010, and features jokes that would sound like gibberish to Samantha Baker (think Twitter, texting and uncool Tom Cruise) and yet, it feels more like an 80s teen movie than anything you’ve seen since, well, the 80s. It’s smart. It’s silly. It’s semi-scandalous. And it manages to make glad you’re not in high school and wish you could go back, at the same time.
From the moment Easy A‘s protagonist, Olive falls into frame, her books and hair all over the place, you can tell that director Will Gluck (Fired Up) wants you to think of her, and her portrayer (the effortlessly hilarious Emma Stone) as a modern-day Molly Ringwald. There’s even a moment where Olive asks why she can’t find a guy more like John Bender or Jake Ryan (complete with grainy clips of their fist-pumping, convertible-leaning charm). But with her bug eyes and charming lack of coordination, Olive is a lot more awkward than Ringwald ever was – in a good way. She’s not a princess in an way shape or form. She’s a relatable, bedroom-dancing-on-a-weekend, cardigan-in-the-summer, stay-in-study-buddy kind of gal. You know, the kind of guy Lloyd Dobler, might fall for.
At the beginning of the movie, Olive is a female Farmer Ted – nerdy, nice and completely unnoticeable. But that all changes after she lies to her friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about losing her virginity to a college guy. All of a sudden, she’s a school slut (you might say a randy Ronald Miller) and her “Kinsey 6 homo” BFF, Brandon (Dan Byrd, Cougar Town) is asking her to sex him straight. She declines. But because hates to watch him bear the wrath of her peers’ homophobic hatred, she offers him another promising proposition. One pretend party hook-up – complete with bed jumping, self-made sex sound effects and her panties in his back pocket – in exchange for a gift card of her choice.
Their sexual experiment works perfectly. Brando becomes one of the straight boys and Olive finally gets a reputation. Albeit, a bad one. In order to keep up with her new image, Olive starts dressing like a hussy Hester Prynne – wearing bustiers with fabric As on the boob. And after a few boys find out the truth behind her talked-about tryst, she manages to turn her prude prostitute moment into a serious business. Suddenly, she finds herself swimming in store credits – and unwarranted male attention.
Although it’s glossy, High School Musical-style exterior and webcam interludes suggest otherwise, Easy A is a sharply crafted commentary on teenage sexuality and the art of teenage over-sharing. A Can’t Buy Me Lust, if you will.As Olive’s favourite teacher (Thomas Haden Church) says in a particularly sassy soliloquy, today’s teens broadcast their every move on Facebook and Twitter, and somehow, they’re surprised when their peers are all up in their private business. And as Olive soon comes to realize, the horny details of your (active, or non-active) sex life are last thing you should be making public – whether that’s through texting, tweets, profile updates or just good old-fashioned gossiping.
With an inspired message, snappy, era-defying pop culture dialogue and uniformly solid performances (In addition to Stone, we’ve got Amanda Bynes as a Bible-thumping Regina George, Lisa Kudrow as the Christy Masters of guidance counselors and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the coolest parents in teen movie history), Easy A makes the grade, and then some. A-
EXTRAS: Gag reel, Emma Stone’s audition footage, Commentary with Stone and Will Gluck
*Review originally published September 27, 2010.