It’s not hard to see why Emma Stone has already become the next big thing. Easily stepping into La Lohan’s shoes for feelgood teen comedy with bite, she commands the screen with just as much charisma as she showed in ‘Zombieland’, and with intelligence to spare. Granted, ‘Easy A’ doesn’t require much intelligence to watch, but it does ask some awkward questions about modern teenagers and of teen life in general, and doesn’t always offer easy answers. Stone plays Olive Penderghast, a high school loner who one day inadvertently makes her best friend think she’d slept with a college student. Enter her gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd), a bullied loner too, who asks her to pretend to have sex with him in order to relieve his daily torment. She agrees, but it opens the floodgates for all bullied loners – Olive relieves the suffering of the lives of the high school oppressed, but at the cost of her own reputation. She meanwhile doesn’t have sex with anyone, and doesn’t even notice the advances of ‘Woodchuck’ Todd (Penn Badgley).
Bert V Royal’s script is peppered with hilariously funny lines, largely given to Stone’s ultra-liberal parents Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, but Will Gluck’s movie isn’t afraid of going very dark places too. Stone is even thrown under the bus by school counsellor Lisa Kudrow (typically witty yet acerbic), who sleeps with a ‘Christian’ student behind her husband Thomas Haden Church’s back. Royal and Gluck never give her a break – her reputation gets shot to hell whilst trying to do the right thing, yet the people she helps don’t help her back. It may not be as black as ‘Heathers’, but it has a similar point to make about contemporary teen culture.
It likens itself to the teen movies of the 1980′s (‘Say Anything’ in particular), but whilst it occasionally has similar sensibilities, it does tread ground they covered more sincerely two and a half decades ago. There’s nothing original here, and whilst Stone fills the role effortlessly, she does quite often give off the air that she’s beneath it. I couldn’t agree more – ‘Zombieland’ most recently made that clear, and it’ll be interesting to see her in the Spider-Man reboot, but this is still a lot of well-meaning fun. Comparisons have been made between this and ‘Clueless’ – both have strong, career-making female leads, both pay homage to notable pieces of literature (Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ there, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ here), and it’s a significant point; both may be fluffy but they’re intelligent too. You won’t see a teen movie ultimately this good again for a long time.
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