Posted by: viewfromacouch | October 6, 2010

EASY A: Emma Stone is a fake slut.

Easy A is a high school rom-com, but in some ways it’s also a science fiction movie. This is a movie that exists in a heightened reality where high school seniors don’t have sex. It’s a movie that casts the lovely Emma Stone as a nobody girl and asks us to believe it; where outside of our clever protagonist, very few characters seem capable of any critical thinking. But ultimately, as a well-cast and surprisingly funny film, it’s a movie that works.

It’s not without flaws. Clearly inspired by the work of John Hughes, this is a very self-aware high school flick that knowingly plays with the conventions of its genre. At the same time, the script tries to take some unconventional turns to inject more “realism” into the story. Sometimes it’s effective, but other times it feels a bit hokey from a movie that clearly knows it’s a movie. When English teacher Thomas Haden Church starts rapping Shakespeare, only to stop and say, “No, I’m not going to rap. That’s what happens in bad movies…” one can’t help but roll the eyes.

But that’s just being nit-picky. The movie leans largely on the appeal of Ms. Stone, and she’s radiant here — not just because she spends half the movie dressing like a tramp, either. After solid turns as a supporting player in Superbad and Zombieland, Stone steps into the spotlight for this film and has likely launched her career to another level. As our hero Olive Penderghast, she is just so darn likeable. I wasn’t initially fond of the film’s over-reliance on narration, as it’s usually a sign of lazy storytelling — but her delivery makes it work. It also allows Stone to be a part of every scene, even those she’s not in, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Olive is too ashamed to tell her best friend she wasted her weekend doing nothing, so she invents a story about spending the weekend with a fictitious college guy. When said friend infers Olive must have lost her virginity, she denies it, but it’s too late. The rumour’s already been overheard by Amanda Bynes, doing her best “Mandy Moore in Saved!” impression, and it immediately spreads like wildfire. Some of the movie’s best sequences involve tracking the electronic rumour-mongering, flying across the school from cell phone to cell phone.

Much cattiness ensues, and it’s all very Mean Girls. Olive adopts her new bad girl reputation and relishes in the newfound student celebrity, even as it drives away her former friends. But while Mean Girls solves all of its problems by the end, wrapping things up in a neat little package (ie. the exact opposite of real high school), Easy A gets messy in the best ways possible. Things work out nicely for Olive in the end of course (and by saying that, I don’t feel I’m spoiling anything), but not all conflicts are resolved. And in doing so, it never feels like the movie leaves any loose threads — just that not everything gets proper closure. Isn’t that how life works?

While the movie lives or dies by Stone’s performance, she’s not without help. She’s surrounded by a terrific adult cast with strong comedic timing. Malcolm McDowell plays the school principal, and underused though he is, he gets one great monologue that’s immensely funny. Stanley Tucci is sure to join Whip It‘s Daniel Stern and Juno‘s J.K. Simmons in the Movie Dad Hall of Fame, and Patricia Clarkson does well in the Mom role too.

Clearly I am not the target demographic for a movie like this, but my modest expectations for the film were blown out of the water. It’s the best film of its kind in quite some time, and much funnier than I’d have ever expected. Emma Stone can keep making chick flicks, and I’ll gladly go out of my way to see them. That’s the mark of a star.

7.4/10 | B

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