Thursday 20 October 2011

Movie Review: Easy A (2010)

A high school comedy that cleverly tones down the raunchiness in favour of wit, Easy A has a lot going for it: a bright premise, a likable Emma Stone, an astute commentary on promiscuity, and lots of laughs.

Olive Penderghast  (Stone) is a generally anonymous high school student. Trying to impress her flashier friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka), Olive lies and pretends that she has slept with a college student. Immediately the news spreads throughout the school and she gains an unwanted reputation as a tramp. Among the horrified classmates is Marianne (Amanda Bynes), the leader of a small group of strictly religious students. Marianne condemns Olive's behaviour but takes on the mission of leading her back to the right path.

Instead of listening to anything that Marianne has to say, Olive decides to put her fake reputation to good use: at a house party she pretends to have energetic sex with the gay Brandon (Dan Byrd), to put a stop to the bullying directed his way. Her notoriety as a slut enhanced, Olive finds herself branded as an adulteress, and finds her life mimicking the classic novel The Scarlett Letter, that she happens to be studying in the English class of Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church). Olive starts to dress the part, and to cash in: loser boys start paying her to spread rumours that she slept with them, to help overcome their geeky images.

Despite not actually having had sex with anyone, Olive's high school life spirals totally out of control, and she finds herself embroiled in a marital sex scandal between Mr. Griffith and his wife (Lisa Kudrow). She needs to find a way to put a stop to all the rumours and regain some normalcy.

Easy A has fun asking all sorts of questions: what's the difference between reputation and reality? Is a promiscuous reputation worth maintaining? How long can a chain of lies hold together, and what happens when one lie too many overwhelms the entire structure?

Director Will Gluck brings the script by Bert V. Royal to life with a light touch and an emphasis on humour rather than the more common over-the-top bawdiness that has come to define the genre. Easy A avoids the cliches and tones down the jokes about body fluids, and instead achieves an irreverent, self-dismissive and breezy vibe perfectly suited to the emotional chaos that often accompanies the high school experience. At times, the film tilts into choreographed operetta territory, with repeated shots of exaggerated emotions sweeping through the school and all the students stopping to stare at Olive. It's flashy technique, but not always necessary.

Emma Stone emerges from the turmoil of high school travails with a burgeoning reputation as an emerging star with a deft comic touch, capable of carrying a film through a winning combination of natural appeal and self-depreciation. With the secondary cast filled out by the likes of Malcolm McDowell as the school principal, Stanley Tucci as Olive's dad and Patricia Clarkson as her mom, Easy A has quirky performances hiding behind every corner.

By delivering a fresh and engaging course on navigating the sexual waters of high school life, Easy A is a solid B+.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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