' ' Cinema Romantico: Easy A

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Easy A

A common sentiment is this: "How did I ever survive high school?" I often ask myself this very question.  And yet when I ride the train to work most mornings I see numerous new-fangled high school students in their artful Ugg boots, scrolling their Ipads, drinking their venti lattes from Starbucks, and I shudder to myself and think, "My God, how would I survive high school now?" I get the sense it's even more of a cliqued warground than it was during my tour of duty. There is a moment in 2010's "Easy A" when Emma Stone's shunned protagonist Olive Penderghast mentions how she wishes there were guys at her school worthy of 80's Movies Guys, like Lloyd Dobler holding up the boombox in "Say Anything" or Ferris Bueller taking over the German parade. This is not merely disturbing because characters in today's teen movies are now referencing the teen movies of my youth but because....well, consider "Say Anything". What were the problems? Lloyd didn't want to "buy anything, sell anything or process anything as a career." Diane Court was afraid of flying. They are both afraid of the future. Sure, Diane's dad winds up getting sent to prison for tax evasion but doesn't that seem like such small potatoes compared to Olive Penderghast getting propositioned for sex in a restaurant parking lot? 

Olive, not wanting to spend the weekend with her mouthy pal Rhi (Aly Michalka), who almost takes a seat on the sideline too early, lies and says she has a date with a college guy which escalates into spinning a story in the girl's bathroom about how she lost her virginity. Ah, but the girl's bathroom has ears and Marianne (Amanda Bynes), the in-your-face!!! Christian of the schoolgrounds, overhears and spreads this information like wildfire all of which leads to one of the film's many priceless Olive observations: "I always thought pretending to lose my virginity would be a little more special. Judy Blume should've prepared me for that."  (I'd love to see the "shitfaces", to borrow Rhi's term, who used to take such offense to Judy Blume's "Forever" after a screening of "Easy A.")

Olive spills the beans of truth to Brandon, a fellow student harassed for being openly gay, and so they concoct a plan wherein they will turn up at a raging party that weekend, lock themselves in a room and feign having sex to allow Brandon access to a "man card" so he can stop being bullied. And once this happens more geeky male students begin approaching Olive to enhance their reputation with simulated sex - and with various monetary gift cards as, uh, payment - so that in no time Olive has earned a reputation as the School Slut.

Well, wouldn't you just know that 'round about this same time Olive's English class, taught by the deadpan, well intentioned Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), is reading "The Scarlet Letter" and so Olive kinda makes like a modern day Hester Prynne by dressing to play the part and stitching a scarlet "A" to all her clothes. But, as they must, things will get worse before they get better, and they will get better and they will get better by overtly referencing the very same 80's flicks Olive references earlier which suggest that for all the guff the Me Decade takes we still have the best teen movies. So there, Generation Y.

Much of the material of this adolescent adventure is not at all lightweight, like so many films of its ilk, but its handling of so much of it is sort of shockingly lightweight. For instance, all the Christians here are portrayed as over-religious-ized hyenas screaming My-Way-Or-The-Highway. I'm not the most Godly guy on the block, admittedly, but not all Christians are like those shitfaces, to re-borrow Rhi's term, at Westboro Baptist. Most troubling, though, is the subplot that emerges later in the film where the dense boyfriend of Bynes' Marianne contracts an STD from the guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow) who just so happens to be married to Mr. Griffith and who actually lets Olive flail on the cross without fessing up to what she's done.  ..........uh.......... If your film's gonna be fluffy then be fluffy but if you want to cross the borderline and and bring Teacher-Gives-Student-STD into the mix you've left fluffy behind and so treat your material accordingly. Even Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students, wouldn't have stood for such nonsense. 

"Easy A's" saving grace, however, is one Emma Stone. This performance has generated a great deal of hype and she's worthy of every last bit of it. The film may not know which way it's leaning all the time but Stone does. Equal parts affecting and comic and even getting a song & dance number she's like a more husky voiced (oh, why not?) Judy Garland. One of my favorite passages of cinema from 2010 has to be the early montage of one long weekend in which Olive goes from hating Natasha Bedingfield's "Pocket Full Of Sunshine" to adoring it. It's small, a throwaway, really, but it proves Emma Stone is going for broke the whole way. She's got charisma to burn.

Methinks a star is born.           


Castor said...

Funny, I got the DVD from Netflix and rewatched it for the first time since its opening weekend. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it more than the first time (I gave it a B back then).

Now, I think you took it a bit too seriously when it comes down to the STD and Christian representations ah ;) The movie does have a lot of snappy, funny zingers that are really well delivered by Emma Stone. While it's not a classic, this is definitely one of the better effort as far as teen comedies are concerned.

Nick Prigge said...

I agree that she has numerous great lines that she delivers perfectly. The one she said in the English accent where it ended with "guvnah", I can't remember what it was but, man, did that make me laugh hard.

I could probably be brought around on the whole Christian subplot but - perhaps it's just me aging at a rapid rate - the lightness of the STD thing really bothered me a lot.

Simon said...

Ha. Methinks.

Sneha said...

I saw this movie last month...not so good movie...i got bored after some time...