17
Sep
2010
Review: Easy A
Easy A
Jordan
The teen movie genre has a tendency to gloss over some of the stickier elements of being an actual teenager with a cinematic sheen. Just as often, teen movies steal their basic plotlines from classic literature and "update" the story by setting it in a high school where the heightened drama will seem right at home. Easy A ostensibly does both of these things as it examines standard teen fare like rumors and sexual peer pressure in a surface way while taking just the most well known plot point of The Scarlet Letter as the basis of its title. Like the novel it tries aping, Easy A is about how it feels to be an outcast, and its protagonist wears an A on her chest (though, 3 seconds of thinking will have you wondering what her "A" is really supposed to stand for). Other than that, the movie bears almost no resemblance to the book, and is mostly the better for that; Easy A is at its best when it isn't encumbered by any of the things its supposed to be.

The film follows Olive (Emma Stone) as she embarks on an accidental quest to subvert stereotypes and prove that no one should care what others think. When she invents a tryst to mollify a friend, her invention is spread around the school by a religious fanatic (Amanda Bynes) who wants to save her by judging her harshly and getting her expelled. Her newfound notoriety allows her to help save the reputations of some of the school's most tormented boys, who she agrees to claim she has slept with in exchange for money. The plot is pretty straight forward from there, and you can probably guess exactly what happens at every turn (except, perhaps, in an ill-advised and misplaced subplot involving Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow which could have been entirely excised and done the film no damage).

A few things make Easy A stand out from the masses, though. First and foremost is the very strong lead performance by Emma Stone, who manages to be interchangably funny and moving, and will surely be carrying a much better movie in the near future. Stellar supporting turns by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Stone's parents are comic highlights, and leave you wanting much more from them (continuing my theory that both of them shoudl be in pretty much every movie). And the script is filled with a surprising amount of one-liners, so much so that the unevenness around them stands out more in contrast. The script seems like it was written to be an R-rated movie (and there is a surprising amount of language for a PG-13 rating) in the mode of Stone's Superbad but toned down when its premise seemed to play more to the high school crowd. That's a shame, because when the movie is good, it is fascinatingly earnest and startlingly funny. Unfortunately it spends most of its run time trying to be the good little teen movie that's expected of it. For a movie that claims to be about standing out, Easy A spends too much of its time trying to fit in.

Grade: B-
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