Emma Stone’s secular heroine stands up to her detractors in the discriminative and cliché heavy teen comedy Easy A.
Stone’s star has been on the ascent for a few years now, with notable turns in Superbad and Zombieland paving the way for her own star vehicle. If only she had a movie worthy of her skills, for Easy A ain’t that film.
Stone stars as Olive, a Californian teen who, amongst the varied cliques which is high school, chooses to remain anonymous.
All that changes when one little lie about losing her virginity (she didn’t) spreads like an STD during Spring Break.
Soon the invisible girl becomes the resident slut, but rather then combat her persecutors – led by Amanda Bynes’ Christian mob – she works her reputation, becoming a quasi-prostitute/saint, serving the down trodden who are in need of an imaginary bonking (persecuted gay friend, overweight geek, foreign student with bad acne, etc.)
As Olive’s monstrous alter-ego takes hold, director Will Gluck (working on a screenplay by Burt V. Royal) delivers the films preach with utmost clarity: gossip and judgement are the greatest sins of all.
That is all fine and dandy, yet hardly original with Easy A a loose adaptation of The Scarlet Letter (the book/film/concept is openly referenced several times), that scores little points for creativity. (10 Things I Hate About You re-did Shakespeare in a more refreshing way).
In fact, Easy A can’t help but borrow from other teen films that are much better, with special mention to the films of John Hughes which this film desperately wants to be, but doesn’t have the smarts or emotional depth.
It’s a shame since performances wise, there is much to like. Stone infuses her role with wit and intelligence, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson steal the movie as her parents, and Thomas Haden Church is also in top form in his limited role as Olive’s favourite teacher.
The main problem is the way Easy A paints its characters with the broadest of brushes, for while Gluck and co. attempt to stray from cliché in some areas (and fail), they can’t help but rely on stereotype to promote its own prejudices, especially in its depiction of the religious, as Olive’s persecutors quickly become the persecuted.
Christianity as a value system and lifestyle is trashed to the point of defamation in an attempt to gain a cheap laugh. One sequence features a desperate Olive seeking guidance through religion, but is met with a Catholic church showcased as nothing more than an empty confessional, and an evangelical ministry akin to a snake pit.
The Christian mob itself is caricature both unrealistic and offensive, with Bynes (who also had a hand in the anti-Catholicism found in Hairspray) playing the ring leader as a stuck up pious prone to temper tantrums.
As a result, the success of Easy A will have to rest on the prejudice of individual viewers. Considering its demographic and their contempt for anything remotely religious, look for it to become a hit.