Easy A

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 09/19/10 21:58:17

"Easy B."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

"Easy A" is the story of a girl who, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, is not careful about what she pretends to be.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is a smart, witty high-school virgin who allows various outcasts -- a gay kid, a chubby kid, etc. -- to claim they've slept with her, thus improving their rep while degrading her own. For a while, this doesn't bother Olive; she has a strong sense of who she really is, and when the school's cadre of young Bible-thumpers shun her, she takes it as almost a badge of pride. Complications, of course, ensue.

We're not looking at a masterwork here, but it's amiable as hell, with effortless comic turns by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive's hip parents. Indeed, almost every adult in the movie -- Thomas Haden Church as a snarky English teacher, Lisa Kudrow as a guidance counselor with problems of her own -- is presented affectionately and respectfully, with lives outside the narrative. (The exception is Malcolm McDowell as the hardcase principal, but this is forgiven because the mere thought of the erstwhile star of If... as a principal speaks ironic volumes.) We are not in the territory of John "When you grow up, your heart dies" Hughes, to whose movies Easy A explicitly genuflects.

The style, via director Will Gluck, is loose and conventional (aside from the odd opening credits, which hide in the background of shots and will likely be nearly unreadable on TV). It's a pop song of a movie -- a pop riff on The Scarlet Letter, through which vehicle the film tries to make salient points about how female sexuality is viewed with a leer or a scowl, while male sexuality is shrugged at. It's true that some plot aspects feel too tightly wrenched into place: when was the last time any Christian group held any sway in a public school, particularly one in California? The Bible-thumpers are there to create conflict (and to provide a parallel to Hester Prynne's travails), but secular teenage girls can be quite viciously judgmental all by themselves, as Mean Girls proved. Okay, so Bert V. Royal (the credited scripter here) is no Tina Fey, and Emma Stone is no Lindsay Lohan -- luckily for her. Stone, making her starring debut after several supporting roles, has a deep, no-nonsense voice and a way of delivering her fast, witty dialogue that suggests her brain works just as fast.

Now that Lohan seems to have imploded, Stone might be Hollywood's new go-to girl for smart, appealing young heroines who can also get laughs. "Easy A" is sweet enough balm, but it may herald an arrival.

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