The Film: Easy A (2010)

The Principles: Will Gluck (Director).  Emma Stone.  Amanda Bynes.  Lisa Kudrow.  Stanley Tucci.  Patricia Clarkson.  Thomas Haden Church.  Cam Gigandet.  Malcolm McDowell.  Alyson Michalka.

The Premise: When Olive Penderghast (Stone) reluctantly tells her best friend Rhiannon (Michalka) a lie about how she had lost her virginity to a college freshman, the High School Rumor Mill goes into full gear and Olive uses it to her advantage.

Is It Good: Very much so!  In fact, to quote what I posted on Facebook about it: “Well hell, that was really, really good.  Like really.  Really really” (cutting-edge cinematic commentary there).  That may come as a surprise to SOME of you, as I’ve seen a lot of hesitation to give it a chance from people (which probably had a lot to do with the marketing – I went back and rewatched the trailer and yeesh), but it is, well, really good.  Bert V. Royal does a great job with the screenplay – it’s very smartly written – and Will Gluck, fresh off of his debut Fired Up (which I haven’t seen but have heard is good) pretty much directed the hell out of it.  Well, I say that – there’s nothing particularly revelatory about what he does here, it’s all very familiar, but it’s kinetic and it works and it shows a guy who knows exactly how to achieve exactly what he wants behind a camera.  Let this guy get a few original, innovative ideas in his head and he could be something special.  Probably the only misstep on his part (and it’s a common one in movies like these) is that Ojai High School – which, we’re reminded by Principal Malcom McDowell, is a run-of-the-mill Public School – is ridiculously perfect and gorgeous and pristine.  It’s almost like Gluck has no idea what a regular public school even looks like.  But I’m getting a little off track.

Unbelievably perfect school aside, Gluck is able to navigate his (and our) was through a story that’s equal parts complex and straight-forward and the way he’s able to seamlessly switch between giving us a nicely accurate visual depiction of how fast rumors work and then stop and stay still long enough for the emotional beats to work – and do it without giving us whiplash – is impressive.  And, to backtrack and expound for a moment – Royal turns in a story that’s hip and snappy and, again, smart and it’s still refreshing to see a story like this approached from the Mean Girls/Juno side of things as opposed to the American Pie side – if I were gonna draw paralells to movies that TODAY’S audiences would have related it to (as there are a LOT of references to the old John Hughes movies).  It’s not a movie about SEX so much as it’s a movie about sexuality and even more than that it’s a movie about identity and how sexuality plays such a tremendous role in a teenager’s identity.  It’s funny, yes, but it’s also HONEST and even though a few of the dramatic beats are a touch too on-the-nose, it all comes from a very genuine place.  However, if I were going to lodge one legitimate complaint at the script, it would be the missed opportunities in raising certain questions about double-standards and the whole gender dynamic of teen sexuality.  The movie is basically a self-referential remake of The Scarlet Letter and not once did anybody seem to take umbrage to the fact that Hester Prynne had taken all of the blame and guilt while the married minister stood in silence.  It was just accepted and that carried over a lot into Olive’s story as well.  The women are saddled with all the responsibility and guilt of sex and sexuality while the men are just, kinda…there.  Which works, though, because the entire thing is told strictly from Olive’s point of view.  It’s not a horrible, blatant omission and there are little moments here and there where Olive calls some of these guys out, which serves to fill in those gaps a little so it’s certainly not enough to sink the film in general, but it is a little bit of a missed opportunity, even if it is rather made up for with Olive’s last line in the film.

Speaking of, at the center of all of this is Emma Stone and it’s a testament to her talents that she makes herself – an adorably GORGEOUS woman – believable as an invisible nobody (this is largely due to a sort of wonderful self-deprecating sequence in which she spends an entire weekend singing Natasha Bedingfield‘s “Pocketful of Sunshine” and painting her dog’s nails).  She’s ridiculously charming in every frame and, even though it might not be fair to compare the two, she kinda one-ups Ellen Page at her own game, with that sort of stylized, precocious, too-smart-for-my-own good way she delivers grown-up dialogue and attitude as a teenager.  For a film like this to work your lead needs to be able to hit her mark on practically every emotion and Stone – in her first lead role – does it with ease.

She’s not alone though – she’s supported by a veritable Who’s-Who of a supporting cast, at the top of which are Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as her super-progressive, just-weird-enough-to-be-charming-and-still-be-good parents.  Their characters get stretched a teency bit too thin here and there and you kinda start to lose a connection with them, but then they bring it right back and win you over again.  Backing them up are Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow – Olive’s teacher and guidance counselor, respectively.  Church does an amazing job of playing that teacher who really cares but sometimes finds himself in over his head and because of how naturally handsome he is it would have been easy for him (or Royal, or Gluck) to slip his character into CreepyVille, but it never happens.  In a lesser movie it probably would have, so hi-five for that.  And Kudrow – well, I don’t want to spoil it, but Kudrow is aces.

Amanda Bynes turns in a nice, if not just a touch perfunctory, performance as the stereotypical “Jesus Freak,” and Alyson Michalka, well, she seems to still be trying to figure out who she is as an actress as there wasn’t a whole lot to differentiate here character here from her character in Bandslam, even though the two were fundamentally different.  She did good work, though.

So yeah…it’s good!  Really really!

Is It Worth A Look: YES!  Stop telling yourself that it doesn’t interest you and stop “trying” to muster up the motivation to watch it – just watch it.  It’s well worth your time and nothing at all like what you’re probably expecting if you haven’t seen it yet.  It’s on Instant.  Do it.

Random Anecdotes: It IS on Instant and it’s branded as a Starz Play movie.  For the longest time that was a repellant, as Starz Play movies on Instant looked like Darkman’s face, but they seem to have upped their game.  It looked great.  I also watched Animal Kingdom (so good) later the same day and it’s also a Starz Play movie and it looked stellar.  This may just be for the newer titles, but if you’ve just gotten to the point where you’re dismissed and written off Starz Instant titles completely, it might be time to reconsider.

Cinematc Soulmates: Juno.  Mean Girls.  The Scarlet Letter. All the John Hughes Movies.