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One of the worst things any teen comedy can do is think it’s cool.  The minute a writer creates something for the high school demo attempting to be too hip for the room; it smells like day old fish.  So would normally be my dismissal of Easy A, a post-modern take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 tale of hyper-morality, The Scarlet Letter, were it not for the film’s excellent and surprising cast.

Olive Penderghast is a good girl, really she is, but some loose talk between herself and her BFF in their high school lavatory will wreak havoc on what was once her completely unremarkable reputation.  Trying merely to one-up her aggressive, audacious pal, Olive spins a yarn about her torrid night with an anonymous college boy.  This is overheard by one of the school’s overzealous abstinence advocates and immediately drummed over the campus tom-toms, elevating Olive into high school infamy for all the wrong reasons.  Once the X-rated genie is out of the bottle, Olive enjoys her saucy fame a wee bit and decides to live up to her dirty reputation; using her fallen status to help out misfits around the school who pay her in gift cards for the privilege of saying they slept with her.  Olive becomes not only the focus of lust for the entire school’s male population, but an object of jealousy to her now former best friend and the subject of an all-out religious campaign by the just say no crew who pray over Olive’s tarnished soul.  Even the adults around Olive react to her mythical slatternly ways, refusing to hear her side of things even when she’s telling the truth.  Playing up to her alleged sins, Olive takes a note from Hawthorne and sluts it up in strollwear; corset, heels and skintight everything with a big old red “A” planted across her décolletage.  Will anyone except her parents ever believe her?  Will the cute boy she’s crushed on for years ever look at her the same way again?  Will she catch cold in that outfit?  Answers to all these questions and more will be revealed.

One of Easy A’s best moves is in casting the vivacious Emma Stone as its lead.  The flame-haired actress has shown she can run with the funny in films like Superbad {2007} and last year’s Zombieland.  Stone’s wiser-than-her-years straightforward gaze, her husky voice and whipsmart comedic timing do a lot for Easy A, which could have easily turned unsavoury, or at worst dull if not for Stone’s charisma.  Stone is surrounded by amazing talent, particularly Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as her very trusting mom and dad.  Desperate to balance the friend/parent ratio, their tendencies to overshare some of their life experiences with their kids make for some of the movie’s funniest moments.  Thomas Haden Church is also great in a small role as Olive’s favourite teacher; an educator so devoted to his kids he’ll do anything, even rap very badly to get through to them.  He’s also the one who put this whole red letter thing into her head.  The excellent Lisa Kudrow is cuttingly patronising as the guidance counselor who’s already made her mind up about Olive and Amanda Bynes wears her big hair and twin set well as the condescending, judgmental abstinence queen whose goal is to run Olive out of the school.

The brilliant cast lifts up Easy A’s occasionally shrill and shallow script.  It spends a lot of time on its teenagers whining about how terrible it is to be a teenager -- which is something no teenager ever says.  Olive even references how bad her life is by comparing it to clips from Say Anything and Sixteen Candles and wonders why her life can’t be like a John Hughes movie.  Strange, I was wondering the same thing. 

While Easy A tries terribly, terribly hard, it doesn’t capture the savvy and innate cool of Hughes’ and Crowe’s (and Tina Fey’s) teenage comedy opuses.  Easy A is entertaining nonetheless and does have its moments of charm, mostly thanks to the collection of talented folks reading its lines.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Sept. 17th, 2010

 

 

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