A morality tale with wit

2011-01-17 00:00

EASY A is the story of Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) who ignites the rumour mill at her school by claiming to have lost her virginity to a college boy during a weekend. A conservative teen church group decide to take on Olive as their next project. Meanwhile Olive, reading and inspired by The Scarlet Letter, decides to go with the flow and help out her gay, geekish friend by setting up a faked heterosexual liaison to change the school’s perception of him. In no time she is being propositioned by other hopeless cases. Taking them on in good spirits, it is not long before the web of lies begins impacting on her social status. Enter Todd (Penn Badgley), an old junior school crush who truly cares for her, and the realisation dawns that the truth is the only way out of the mess.

The truth, in some cases however, is more damaging. Yes, Easy A is a morality tale of sorts laced with good naturedness and wit.

I have to admit that it was pleasantly surprising to see a teen romantic comedy with an intelligent edge. The film references and pays tribute to the films of John Hughes — remember The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This said, there are elements that I feel detract from the style and feel of Hughes. It is the self-conscious nature of the film embodied in the super confident character of Olive and her analysis of situations that begin to rile a little. Like Juno with its rapid-fire, enlightened and liberal dialogue, her character comes across as eternally optimistic and in control, just like her whimsical witty parents and her hip teacher. This extends to other characters too and it feels like being at a Mensa- Carnegie meeting at times. For me it is an indication of an intelligent screenplay writer coming across as a “smart-alec” rather than understanding the infinite shadings within humanity. I found this tiresome in Juno but in Easy A this is compounded by trivialising other characters not deemed worthy of the writer’s time, The church group, for example, are particularly one-dimensional. This feels like writer’s conceit to me.

Perhaps I am being harsh as the style of writing manages to keep the tone comedic and Easy A taps into the zeitgeist of teendom as evidenced by the young audience members at the screening who laughed and reacted at the right moments. For me it’s nowhere near as good as Hughes, but a lot better than many of the more recent offerings in the genre.

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