'Easy A': A sassy satire that skewers double standards

Posted: September 17, 2010

Why are high school boys who lose their virginity called studs and girls who do so called skanks? This question is brought to you by Easy A, a sassy satire of The Scarlet Letter that skewers such double standards.

The film stars Emma Stone, the saucy redhead who always looks as if she has just swallowed a wisecrack. Here Stone (Superbad, The House Bunny) lets 'em rip in the high school comedy that will make her career - and you - laugh out loud.

Bert V. Royal's screenplay structures the story as the live webcast confession of one Olive Penderghast (Stone), explaining her perceived sins. Like the movie she's in, Olive is smart, sarcastic, and never snarky.

Unlike her classmates who rent the movie adaptations of assigned books, Olive actually reads them. She knows the textual differences between Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and the movie versions with Lillian Gish and Demi Moore as Hester Prynne. Her Internet confessional explains how she, the high school honors student, came to be the campus bad girl, Ojai's very own Hester.

It all starts during a bathroom break when her buddy, Rihannon (Aly Michalka), pumps Olive about her weekend and Olive makes up a story about a date with a community-college guy. When Rihannon demands further details, Olive hints that she is no longer a virgin. Given the immediacy of the electronic grapevine, through tweets and texts pretty much everyone at Ojai High knows that Olive is a "slut" before the friends even leave the girls' room.

Rather than feeling ashamed of her new status as a fallen woman, Olive embraces it, using her bad reputation for some small good. She pretends to sexually initiate other social outcasts (her gay best friend, his overweight chum), thereby rendering them cool.

Still, the smart-mouthed Olive would prefer a real relationship to fake hookups. In one of the film's many ironies, Olive, the so-called school slut, is still pining for her first kiss.

The film, directed by Will Gluck (Fired Up!), owes much to Stone's buoyant performance, one that proves that few things are sexier than a sense of humor. Stone has a throaty voice that suggests an instrument cured by Red Bulls over cracked ice. She has brass without brassiness.

Gluck is not a visual storyteller. He depends entirely on his performers and their snappy dialogue.

Like Olive's spiritual sister, Juno, Our Heroine is the product of crunchy, eccentric parenting. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play Olive's Dad and Mom, airily funny hippies who give her their unconditional support, even as they over-share about their own personal lives.

Less well-used is Amanda Bynes as Marianne, the high school Puritan and president of Cross-My-Heart, a celibacy club. Even by the standards of broad comedy, Bynes' performance is cartoonish. In underwritten parts, Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow are a high school English teacher and guidance counselor who respectively support and subvert Olive.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@ phillynews.com. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/ philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.

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