September 18, 2010

Easy A

In Easy A, Emma Stone gives the kind of performance that makes it seem impossible for anyone else to have played the role of Olive, a perceptive but overlooked high schooler who dreams about being noticed, until her reputation takes a change for the notorious. A seemingly harmless tale of a one-night-stand (contrived in order to get her pushy best friend off her back about being such a home-body) launches her from forgotten nothing to the school's hottest topic of gossip. Then, an old friend asks her to help save his reputation (he's terrified of his homosexuality being outed to the viscous jocks), so they stage a little bedroom scene while at a party. Pretty soon Olive is every male virgin's go-to-girl: someone who will lie for them and improve their prudish reputations. But her notoriety comes at a price, and the high school Pharisees (led by Amanda Bynes, who inhabits her role with wonderfully poised bits of Bible thumping madness) engage in a little picketing, some light ostracism, and more than a bit of genuine hellfire and brimstone sermonizing, all at Olive's expense.

Easy A is one of the most original adolescent comedies in years, conceived by newcomer Bert Royal and directed by Will Gluck. Casting is heaven-sent: Stone is easy to like, and she has a natural flare for comedy that comes out in quirky facial expressions and a comic timing that operates in its own dimension: it works on such a wonderfully unexpected level that you find yourself laughing and not being able to stop. The script itself is chock full of funny moments, some of which are so subtle that half the audience isn't even aware of them. As Olive's funny, loving, and very laid-back, understanding parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson seem to be having more fun than they've had in a long time. They're the kind of parents you wish you'd had, although it's more than probable that such parents don't even exist in real life. Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow are among the high school faculty, Malcolm McDowell is the grizzled principal, Aly Michalka is Stone's BFF, and Penn Badgley is the obligatory sensitive, smart, funny, gentlemanly stud who sees beyond Olive's faux reputation. Besides being original, Easy A taps into the trendy technique of referencing movies of the past (particularly John Hughes films), and also sends a healthy nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (which Olive's English class is studying during the events of the movie).

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