D: Will Gluck. DP: Michael Grady. W: Bert V. Royal. Starring: Emma Stone/Penn Bradley/Amanda Bynes/Dan Byrd/Patricia Clarkson/Stanley Tucci/Thomas Hayden Church/Lisa Kudrow/Alyson Michalka/Cam Gigandet/Malcolm McDowell/Bryce Clyde Jenkins.
There is always something exciting about fall. Whether it’s new school supplies, being able to use the other half of your closet of clothes again or grabbing that pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, people hit a new stride when the weather cools down. And yes, it’s the same with the movies.
In the newest addition to the teen genre, Easy A gives us Olive Penderghast. She’s smart, she’s sarcastic, she even has hippie hysterical parents, and yes, no one notices her. The common theme of being ostracized in teen genre films somehow never gets over used. Although this theme has gotten stale in the past, Easy A thankfully allows its heroine (yes, it references literature) to haphazardly escape her wallflower status rather than forcibly and stereotypically go after it.
Instead Olive, played by (slimmed down) snarky Emma Stone inadvertently tells a lie to a friend and no sooner than third period her fake sexual adventure is known throughout the school. Luckily for audiences, Stone is funny, relateable, and human. She fumbles with her new found notoriety in an age appropriate way yet the film’s writing never allows anything to feel or sound cliché or out of tune. As ironically Stone’s Olive is also studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter in English class. So instead of ignoring her fabricated sexpot status, Stone embraces it, fakes it, gets gift cards for it, all in the name of Hester Prynne.
New writer, Bert Royal, embeds this literary reference throughout his film while using Olive’s character to make the story relevant. Thankfully Royal allows Olive to be smart and his high school backdrop to not be sex ridden. Royal also handles his script with the right speed and jargon to disguise any holes or unfinished business. Rather Easy A runs off at a galloping pace encouraging laughs while honoring past teen genre icons such as John Hughes, within the context of the film and within the construction of the script. Not only does Stone hanker for her own John Cusack from Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, but Royal is clearly able to hit upon how teenagers sound and function while resisting teen genre conventions, similar to the late Hughes.
While her fake exploits run away from her and through school, Stone’s Olive is supported by unforgettable and quirky parents Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. Their mere presence supplies weight to the film, but also reminds audiences how important the adult performances are in teen films. It is just as important to illustrate realistic adults as it is teenagers. Who can forget Mr. Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Right, you can’t. Neither will you be able to forget Lisa Kudrow as guidance counselor Mrs. Griffith. Hopefully this role will remind everyone of her talent and instincts as an actress outside of the Friends franchise.
Yet ultimately what is wonderful about Easy A is its freshness and abandonment of teen genre conventions. Best friends aren’t always loyal or understanding, soundtracks can be purposeful without being distracting, romantic interests don’t always have to be part of the main flow of the plot, and, of course, sex isn’t everything. Come on, it’s high school not “high school.”