Friday, September 17, 2010

Easy A

EASY A (Will Gluck, 2010)

In the comedy EASY A high school student Olive (Emma Stone) has her reputation soiled when an overheard and misunderstood conversation in the restroom leads to rumors of her promiscuity. The gossip improves her social standing, so Olive doesn’t make an effort to clear the air. When a classmate asks her to fake having sex with him so he’ll stop being bullied due to his homosexuality, she finds herself as the sole provider in a cottage industry to help the school’s outcast virgins.

By dressing more provocatively and SCARLET LETTER-like through the affixing of a large A to her clothes, Olive embraces the notorious position she now has within the school . Meanwhile, sanctimonious classmate Marianne (Amanda Bynes) leads a group of conservative religious students in a campaign to ostracize their presumably promiscuous peer.

Stone earns high marks in EASY A for her confident and vulnerable performance. She displays a good sense of timing and reaction when playing the comedic parts of the role, especially when it comes to verbal sparring. Stone also hits the right emotional notes when it becomes clear that the scrutiny and judgment by Olive’s peers have begun to take their toll. Like Carey Mulligan’s character in AN EDUCATION, Olive’s intelligence can be her greatest asset and shortcoming, and Stone locates the pain that comes in having her cleverness get the better of her and the superficial apathy she wears.

With EASY A director Will Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal undertake an ambitious effort to make a movie about teen sexuality and double standards. The dialogue is sharp and funny throughout, even when the writer is obviously a little too pleased with his own wit. EASY A treats the issues and social pressures with a seriousness uncommon in similar films, although it tends to retreat when beginning to dig into tough questions.

The role of technology in the rapid distribution of rumors and instantaneous ability to ruin someone’s life goes unexplored, which is a missed opportunity considering that EASY A is framed by a webcast Olive uses to explain her story to the entire school. Examining the effects of social media in such a situation would have been a better use of time than the self-reflexive John Hughes references that the filmmakers indulge.

The film also take a wrong turn when complicating matters with a more comparable SCARLET LETTER scenario than Olive’s circumstances. Despite its faults, EASY A passes due to Stone’s star turn and a knowing screenplay that needed a little more bravery to elevate it to a top achievement.

Grade: B-

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