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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easy A



The best and, really, the only reason to see Easy A is for Emma Stone, who delights in her first leading role. Stone plays Olive, the (rumored to be) most promiscuous girl in her school - rumors she started herself unwittingly, then later as favors to the needy, then later for modest payment usually in the form of gift cards to various chain stores, then still later to continue proving a point she no longer believes in which becomes a burden. Easy A is loosely based on "The Scarlett Letter" (the novel and the original movie, not the crappy "Demi Moore version where she takes a lot of baths"). But it also, to its detriment by drawing the direct comparisons, directly references various high school movies from the 1980's complete with footage: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Can't Buy Me Love, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Say Anything. All of which are superior to Easy A. Proving herself a bona fide leading lady, Stone is just terrific; this is mainly because she's the smartest and best written (though endearingly flawed) person of her age in the movie. The rest of the young cast don't have the chops and aren't written to be the equal of Stone in intelligence or wit, not even Aly Michalka from Hellcats as her best friend nor chipmunk-looking Amanda Bynes playing the same crazy Christian Mandy Moore played in Saved!, but not nearly as well. The adults in the audience, especially Stone's parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci fare much better. Their scenes with Stone are the funniest in the movie. Tucci draws the biggest laugh when he asks their young black adopted son, "Where are you from, originally?" Malcolm McDowell as the principal gets a big laugh when he declares his mission is "to keep the girls off the pole and the boys off the pipe" but he and Thomas Hayden Church as Stone's favorite teacher are underutilized when they could have contributed many more zingers. My big issue with Easy A was that it didn't really contain a lesson or message. Aside from being much funnier, Mean Girls - the gold standard of modern teen movies - directly addressed and instructed its young audience on how to treat each other and themselves. There was a genuine message. Besides "lying is bad", Easy A lacked a greater theme, unless you glean from it that the current young generation's great legacy is its inability to create anything original of value despite all of their technology at hand. (Hayden Church points this out.) Any schoolchildren thinking they can now just watch Easy A instead of reading "The Scarlett Letter" and pass a test on the novel will be sorely disappointed.