Friday, September 17, 2010

Sharp, funny "Easy A" has more wit than standard

Easy A (2010)
93 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: A -

Don't judge a book by its cover. A sharp-witted, engaging, very funny high school comedy like "Easy A" easily boasts a higher mark than the standard teen-comedy piffle. To go further, it belongs next to similarly smart entries like "Heathers," "Election," "Mean Girls," and "Juno." The film's dark horse success almost completely lies on the shoulders of Emma Stone, and this is her official coming-out showcase. The kid's got spunk, a go-for-it-goofiness, and she makes raspy voices appealing. 


Stone is adorably winning and self-deprecating with a sure sense of timing and charm as Olive Penderghast, a smart, articulate, clean-cut (but not stereotypically geeky) California 17-year-old that, in her words, if she was a 10-story building, Google Earth wouldn't even notice her. Of course, that social invisibility changes when a little “confessed” lie to her gossipy BFF (a bubbly Aly Michalka) about having a one-night stand with a college guy (she actually stayed home all weekend) spreads around the school like wildfire. Tuh-duh, Olive's reputation is easy tramp. But when closet-case friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) wants to pretend to be straight to survive high school, he makes a deal to perform a fake public sexcapade. While studying The Scarlet Letter in class, Olive decides to emulate adulturess Hester Prynne by continuing to play it up as a high-priced trollop (complete with a red A embroided on her slinky outfits) to do non-sexual favors for geeky virgins with gift cards in return, but Olive learns popularity and financial gain is never worth it. 

"Easy A" does for The Scarlet Letter what "Clueless" did for Jane Austen's Emma, amusingly satirizing Nathaniel Hawthorne's book (and the awful Demi Moore movie). Credit must also go to Bert V. Royal's whip-smart script and Will Gluck's driving direction that pay affectionate tribute to John Hughes in overt but entertaining nods from '80s song covers, “Don't You (Forget About Me)” as well as “We Go Together” from "Grease," to a “musical number for no apparent reason” to finally the "Say Anthing"/"Can't Buy Me Love" finale with Olive's love interest (a too-old Penn Badgley). 

The supporting cast is also irresistible. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are hilariously endearing as Olive's eccentric but very easygoing parents. Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow, as an English teacher and his guidance counselor wife, make every line count. Also, Amanda Bynes leaves an amusingly nasty and not fully one-note impression much like Mandy Moore in Saved! as Bible-thumping mean girl Marianne, but looks like a spray-tanned chipmunk. 


Only does it try to accomplish more than it really had to in a curve-ball subplot, but without detracting from the film, Royal writes off the cliché and the dialogue is snappily acerbic without losing believability. For a knowing and enjoyable comedy, a teen comedy at that, "Easy A" stands out as one of the betters and proves that maybe redheads, like Stone, Lucille Ball, and Debra Messing, are the ones having more fun.

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