My enemy du jure is cliché. I hate Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) because it depicts high school as if times are fast and people get high. Though this is undeniably true some of the time, it is not true for a large part–I want to say majority, but have no data–of American humanity. The wonderful thing about Easy A (2010) is that its whole premise relies upon what I take to be the truth of high school life. The other wonderful thing about Easy A is that it’s hilarious. Absolutely freaking hilarious. Bert V. Royal has written virtually nothing else for film but this movie and I can’t imagine why.
Olive (Emma Stone) is bright and funny high school student still in possession of her “V Card.” Her bestie Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) is going camping with her hippie parents and Olive makes up a lie to avoid what is undoubtedly an unpleasant experience–the lie being a date with a fictional college student. In fact, she spends the weekend listening to a greeting card her grandmother (I think) sends which plays–can I find it?–Pocketful of Sunshine, which she hates only at first. Second, in my immediate memory, only to this. Rhiannon comes back and to keep the lie alive, Olive is wrangled into saying she had a one night stand. This puts Olive on the map and at first it’s mildly pleasant for her. Then Brandon (Dan Byrd), who is being bullied by homophobes (i.e. high schoolers), asks that Olive extend her mendacious slutitude to him. Word starts to spread to the other dweebs in need of a sexy history. Things start to go downhill from there–that’s as in “bad” rather than “easy.”
First off, Olive’s anonymity is a conceit I find a difficult to swallow. She’s so smart, funny, and cute that her admitted lack of chest flesh would not be much of a hurdle. But hey, we need a premise and we need a movie. Fair enough.
The central theme of the film–those shared with The Scarlet Letter, a book I greatly dislike–is surprisingly awesome. She is reading the book in her favorite teacher’s (Thomas Haden Church) class and finds it apropos. They defuse the contrivance bomb by hitting it stoutly on the nose–everything you read in high school seems like it eerily echos your own life, these kids are that self-involved. So true. Premise secured: Tick, VG. She goes out to get some naughty clothes and stitches, with difficulty, some letter A’s to them. Again, a contrivance I greatly enjoyed.
How is all this possible? Because Emma Stone has more charm than…a sea otter. She has a difficult assignment, sometimes, and that’s to pull off a direct to webcam confessional without sounding like a moron. I’ll avoid ultimate evaluation by saying she did it better than anyone else might have. I’ll add to this the foreshadowed musical number earning the same distinctions. I’ve seen her in four movies now and she’s been fantastic in each of them. I expect that she will continue to do fantabulously and must now see Zombieland (2009).
It’s a tough fight for number one charm in this movie with Stone being seriously challenged by her unbelievably relaxed parents played by the consistently excellent Stanley Tucci and occasionally memorable Patricia Clarkson (but mostly Tucci). They get some great material and they waste none of it. They resonate until my funny bone shatters, which sounds worse than it really is. Perhaps credit should also go to director Will Gluck who does put some great flourishes on the high school microcosm. Although we occasionally fall into farce and border on the grotesquely nostalgic, it’s generally on the non-vomit-inducing side.
Downside: Lisa Kudrow. Other pedestrian performances from much of the rest of the cast who put little of their own turn on the material. Church being the best of a mediocre lot. Really though, it’s Emma in every scene.
I’m going to buy this movie because I have to.