Film review – Easy A (2010)

Easy A: Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone)
Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone)

There is a lot going for Easy A but if nothing else it announces the arrival of Emma Stone as a talented, smart and very charismatic comedic actor. While Stone has previously had some great supporting roles, most notably in Superbad and Zombieland, in Easy A she truly shines in the role of Olive Penderghast, a high school senior who accidentally earns the reputation for being the school tramp, despite still being a virgin. Rather than fight against the absurd and vicious rumour mill Olive embraces her new identity partly as an act of defiance.

What makes Olive such a likeable character is the combination of her genuinely seeming like an average high school student and her quick-witted one-liners. In Easy A her wit puts her in a pleasingly privileged position above the sorts of characters who you do enjoy seeing verbally slapped down. Such characters include the extroverted best friend who is a classic female chauvinist type, describing herself in true self-deeming fashion as a ‘super slut’. Then there is the grossly hypocritical Christian girl whose moral hysteria is only matched by her ultra judgemental attitude.

Easy A: Olive (Emma Stone)While Easy A doesn’t exactly have any major faults as such, it doesn’t really substantially address many of the issues that it raises. We see from the reactions of the characters that there is a ridiculous double standard in the way men and women are treated in regards to sex (guy’s who lose their virginity get high fives while the girls get contempt) but the issue isn’t fully explored except to say that getting a bad reputation in high school is pretty miserable. The issue in the film is that Olive shouldn’t be called a slut because she’s still a virgin while perhaps it could have been that Olive shouldn’t be called a slut because her sex life is her own business and how dare people judge her for it. The problem of homophobia is also raised in Easy A but again, it is simply an acknowledged issue that is under explored.

Nevertheless, what Easy A does do well is champion studious, intelligent and friendly kids like Olive over the vacuous, mean and popular kids. Easy A is also a consistently funny film with an incredibly strong supporting cast of older actors, in particular Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci who are hysterical as Olive’s equally droll and witty parents. Curiously, Easy A also feels less of a film aimed at a current teen audience but more of a film aimed at audiences who were teenagers in the 1980s. Not only does it contain various literary references to Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne (whose novel The Scarlet Letter forms the basis of Easy A) but it also mentions Judy Blume, Say Anything… and all of John Hughes’s films. Taking on the spirit of some of these classic teen films certainly hasn’t hurt Easy A and while it doesn’t quite have the edge of something like Election it is the smartest and most enjoyable teen comedy since Juno.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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