A summary explanation of “Easy A,” directed by Will Gluck and slotted to open in theatres today, places it squarely in that genre of cheesy high-school-drama-rom-coms popularized by “Mean Girls” years ago. While the movie probably won’t win any Academy awards, it’s still a hilarious portrayal of the awkwardness of adolescent sexuality and the turbulence of teen angst. The risque humor, strong acting and vibrant characters more than make up for any potential shortcomings, and the overall hilariousness of the movie keeps the audience from dwelling too long on any illogical plot points.
Exasperated by the incessant questioning of best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka, “My Super Sweet 16: The Movie”), protagonist Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone, “Zombieland”) fibs about having lost her virginity to an imaginary, hot weekend date.
After that initial white lie, Olive can’t see the harm in lying about having knocked boots with her gay friend as well when he asks — just so he can be spared him from the torment of jock-ish high school homophobia
Olive nobly cedes for the cause, but soon enough, she’s swamped by pleas for make-believe romps in the sack from a whole gamut of social bottom-feeders.
Olive quickly becomes infamous, but she likes the new attention — she glorifies her new life as the perceived school “slut,” even affixing a red “A” to her newly bought lingerie-style tops as a cheeky homage to Hester Prynne, the adulterous leading lady of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The whole school is buzzing with some fabulously inventive tales about her indiscretion, and Olive’s martyrdom becomes a pretty lucrative business when she starts accepting gift cards as compensation for pretend trysts.
But eventually, Olive bends under the pressure that comes with sacrificing herself to be everyone else’s savior.
The plot follows her increasing isolation and frustration with surprising grace, showing how she finally reaches her breaking point and then the steps she takes to achieve her own atonement.
In the end, “Easy A” brings a surprisingly fresh, pertinent perspective to sex and triumphing over the high school rumor mill.
Thanks to a phenomenal breakthrough performance by Stone, Olive’s character remains wonderfully complex. She’s sarcastic, clever and fairly jaded, yet she still guards that glimmer of youthful idealism throughout her plight.
Olive wonders why her life isn’t more like an ’80s John Hughes movie and keeps the audience bursting out with laughter with a constant flow of witty one-liners.
Likewise, the movie fills out nicely with colorful performances from its supporting cast. Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Patricia Clarkson (“Shutter Island”) tackle the roles of Olive’s quirky but loving, new-age parents, while Amanda Bynes (“Sydney White”) plays the annoying, Bible-praising nemesis that takes it upon herself to save Olive.
Michalka really comes to life as that abrasive best friend you love but want to gag, and even Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”), who plays the utterly daft guidance counselor, only reminded me of Phoebe a little bit.
“Easy A” certainly wasn’t without faults, but viewers could essentially guess the pitfalls, which are fairly universal to all teen comedy movies — a plot of wonderfully convenient coincidences, a cast cleanly divided into stereotypes of cliques and perfectly coiffed hair that persisted even through detention.
But in the end, as long as you’re not one of those people who feels pressed to ask questions like “don’t they have to go to the bathroom?” or “hasn’t this five minutes been more like 12 by now?” chances are that you’ll really enjoy “Easy A.”
The movie is all about laughter — and whether that’s the uncontrollable kind as a result of slick dialogue, the bemused kind from the obviously exaggerated drama or cringe-worthy kind during the pretend sex scenes, you’re guaranteed to find something you like in this movie.
— Contact Catherine Cai.