Easy A

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

Emma Stone finally gets the breakthrough role her fans have been waiting for in “Easy A.” This is the moment that takes her into the front rank of movie stars, sub-category: America’s sweetheart.

Stone has an immediately appealing presence on screen, unpretentious but utterly charming. Here she plays Olive, a girl who doesn’t yet realize that all of the things that make her feel invisible in high school are going to make her wildly beloved for decades after. She is impatient to be “interesting” and so after a thrill-less weekend highlighted by singing along to a greeting card she impulsively tells her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) that she had sex with her college student boyfriend. Problem #1: the sex and the boyfriend are both imaginary. This is the kind of mistake a teenager would make. Problem #2: this confession occurs in the ladies’ room at the high school, with no checking the stalls. This is not the kind of mistake anyone would make after 7th grade, but we have to kick that plot into gear, now, don’t we?

And so the whole school immediately knows and believes this scandalous news. Which is why Olive’s closeted gay friend tired of getting picked on comes to her with a proposition. Not that kind. He wants her to have noisy public pretend sex with him so that he can be definitively proven manly. And since her reputation is already shot, what can it hurt? And why not do the same favor for some other needy souls? And then, when it seems the whole school is judging her (conveniently, her class is reading The Scarlet Letter), she decides to sew a big red A on a bustier and see what it feels like to go from invisible to un-missable.

Stone is such an effortless charmer that she keeps the story aloft, even when Olive inexplicably turns her little adventure into a for-pay enterprise, insisting on gift cards(!) in exchange for making the reputation of the guys involved at the cost of her own. A side story involving Olive’s favorite teacher (Thomas Hayden Church) and his wife, the school guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow) is also unnecessarily tawdry. Far better are the encounters with the always delectable (and just about always underused) Amanda Bynes as the school holier-than-thou abstinence proponent and the always ultra-watchable Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s deliciously off-kilter parents. Their scenes are warm, witty, and surprising, and livelier than Olive’s romantic ups and downs. In every way, it is Stone who is the heart of this movie, and she wins our hearts as well.

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12 Replies to “Easy A”

  1. Nell,
    Another fantastic review. You are right on in saying that this film is all Emma Stone, the “effortless charmer.”
    One thing I loved, loved, loved was the use of an adoptive, interracial family dynamic with Olive’s family. I have two biological sisters and an adopted black sister and adopted black brother. So, I am right there with that hilarious, lovable family!
    Unfortunately, by bringing up John Hughes and all the nods to the great high school movies of the 80s, ‘Easy A’ reminds us that it is not one of them. This film is far too cliched and stereotypical to be included in the list of films mentioned in the movie.
    I thought they took the ultra-religious stereotype too far in this one. Amanda Bynes’ character was actually downright ‘evil holy.’ It was just too much.
    However, this is a very good film and hopefully the breakout role Stone needed to launch into stardom!

  2. I’m planning to see this, Nell. Thanks for this review . It sounds like a genuinely clever teen movie with something to say. (I am a big fan of “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink” along with some other John Hughes movies.) The parents sound like the 2010 equivalent of Harry Dean Stanton.

  3. I love Harry Dean in “Pretty in Pink!” The parents in “Ferris Bueller” are pretty good, too. Do you know that the actors who played his parents got married in real life?

  4. Hi, Nell. “Ferris Bueller” is one I have yet to see from the beginning. I still need to do that. That’s cool about the actors who played Ferris’ parents. It’s great to see character actors like Stanton get their due.

  5. I saw this movie last night and I am in smitten by Emma Stone. I seen a performance so fresh in such a long time. You’re so spot on about her stage presence and her charm, and even in murky moments of the movie, like Lisa Kudrow’s character, Stone and the rest of the wonderful cast, especially her parents really just carried the movie and kept it afloat and lighthearted fun. I can’t wait for this to come out on DVD!

  6. First overnight away in forever. daughter’s friend’s mom took them yesterday w/o conferring. prevention strategies? antidotes?

  7. Auugh, Carrie, I know that situation all too well. It is agonizing to say beforehand, “They are not allowed to see movies on DVD or in theaters without my permission,” but it is even more agonizing not to.
    Let them talk to you about their reactions. Were they uncomfortable? Do they have any questions? They may be confused or distressed over the portrayal and discussion of the mechanics of sex. The main character thought she was doing something kind to help out the boys she pretended to have had sex with but it turned out to be hurtful to a lot of people — why was she wrong? Why did the kids respect boys who had sex but think badly of girls who had sex? Is there bullying like that in their school? It’s also a good movie to help you emphasize the importance of a good reputation. And ask them what they thought about her parents, who are very unusual in a movie of this kind. Keep me posted, here or at moviemom@moviemom.com.

  8. Hi Nell.
    I wanted to like this movie. Emma Stone is, after all, commanding in this role and extremely talented. She owns the screen, although Olive is a little Juno-ish in the wiser-than-any-high-schooler-I-ever-met way. Loved Emma.
    Appalled at the movie though. It quickly devolved into the Hollywood values meme of getting its laughs from degrading every possible role model. Christians – mean, hypocritical, vindictive. Parents – foolable. Minister – mean, authoritarian, porn surfer. School counselor – adultress, basket case. Should I go on?
    Even the “deliciously off-kilter” parents bothered me. Talk about irresponsible. When your daughter starts wearing lingerie to school and tells you “if anyone tells you I have STDs just ignore it” and all you have to say is “Olive, is there anything you want to tell us”, you are a problem parent. One, apparently, who wants to bond with her daughter by telling her “don’t worry, I slept around a lot when I was your age”. That’s a laugh line.
    Cheap laughs, gotten by degrading role models. I wanted to like it, but it doesn’t get an easy A from me.

  9. We don’t disagree too much, Randy — I was bothered by some of the movie’s choices, as noted in my review. But I loved Emma — and predict she will get an Oscar nomination for her upcoming role in “The Help.”

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