EASY A *** ½
Directed by Will Gluck. Written by Bert V. Royal. Starring Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Penn Badgley, Aly Michalka, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Cam Gigandet. 92 min.
There isn’t much that’s believable about Easy A but there is a lot to enjoy. It’s partly due to the whip-smart writing by Bert V. Royal. The movie plays like Aaron Sorkin got saddled with adapting a lame teen comedy and couldn’t help but infuse it with hyper-witty dialogue, almost successfully distracting the audience from the nonsensical story. The other hugely enjoyable element is Emma Stone, who rattles off lines that would trip up most young actors with a sass and intelligence that are an unqualified delight.
Stone plays Olive Penderghast, a high school student who, naturally, no one really notices despite being such a babe. To avoid going on a camping trip with her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) and her weird parents, Olive lies and says she has a date. Pressed for details the following Monday, Olive tells Rhiannon that she lost her virginity to an anonymous college guy. Unfortunately, they are overheard by the hyper-religious Marianne Bryant (I guess “Anita Bryant” would’ve been too obvious) who is played to histrionic sufficiency by Amanda Bynes. Marianne proceeds to spread the news which for some reason shocks the student body, which is made up mostly of ridiculously good-looking young people in their mid-20s.
One of these students, Brandon (Cougar Town’s Dan Byrd), is gay and teased mercilessly for it. He and Olive fake (behind closed doors) a raucous romp in the sack at a party, “straight”ening out Brandon’s rep and saucing up Olive’s. Soon Olive is doing similar favours for unpopular boys, agreeing to say she slept with them in exchange for gift cards to Target and Home Depot.
It’s hard to believe that Olive’s supposed promiscuity would be looked upon with such horror by her classmates, let alone launch a picket line by the “Christian” students demanding her expulsion. And am I wrong in thinking that today’s high school students, born in the mid-90s, are unlikely to be big fans of 80s movies like Sixteen Candles and Say Anything? (I’m not saying that’s not a good thing.) Equally unlikely is the wonderfulness of Olive’s parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) who banter with their daughter like, well, like Aaron Sorkin wrote their dialogue. I say it as a huge compliment to Bert V. Royal and especially to Clarkson, Tucci and Stone whose flawless delivery made me wish that 10% of what comes out of my mouth could be as smart and funny. Rosemary and Dill Penderghast clearly belong in the Movie Parents Hall of Fame.
Let’s see… what else? There’s a boy (Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley) who looks even older than his real life 23 years. He doesn’t believe the rumours and thinks Olive is really cool. They can’t get together until the end of the movie, of course, so he appears infrequently but just enough that we don’t forget who he is. There’s an improbably cool and funny English teacher (Thomas Haden Church) to introduce the novel The Scarlet Letter to the movie. He’s married to the school guidance counsellor (Lisa Kudrow) who’s pretty sour, both as a character and the awkward plot device to bring our story to a close.
I’m making it sound like I didn’t enjoy it but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t say enough about how charming and clever Emma Stone is. The story is ridiculous but the dialogue is so witty and strong, especially from Olive and her parents, that as a whole, the movie is a delight. There are a lot of great lines and bits that I’ll be repeating for a while, especially the one where Olive is looking for the Bible in a bookstore and she’s told it’s with the bestsellers, right next to Twilight.