I must confess that when I first saw the trailer for “Easy A,” the literature nerd in me was thrilled. A teen comedy that takes on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”?
I didn’t expect much of the movie—by which I mean I went in with no expectations of greatness—and while I don’t think it’ll pick up any Oscars this year, I have to admit: it was the most fun I’ve had in the movies in a while.
I can already hear you starting to doubt me, but I hope you’ll read further.
Because even if “Easy A” is a blockbuster release and social-media hyped out the ass, it honestly is a really well-done film. IMDB currently has it at a 7.6 rating of 10, in case you think I’m the only person who liked it. Forget that, I loved it. I loved this movie. I got to see it for free, but love it so much that I plan to pay to see it again. And I’m really cheap, so that says something.
There’s so much good going on in this movie that I don’t know where to start. I guess with the acting? I had never seen Emma Stone in anything before, but was in awe of how she could carry a movie entirely by herself. As far as I know, it’s her first time as a lead, and believe me when I say the camera never leaves her and you never want it to. She demands attention in a way that few actresses her age do. The film is wisely structured around a set of videos that Olive (Stone) is compiling through her webcam. At first this felt like a cheap device, perhaps even cheesy, but in the end I think it worked really well to frame the film as a whole.
Olive’s parents are played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. It seems like an odd pairing, but some of the movie’s funniest moments come through both of these characters. They’re a bit left-of-center, have the tendency to overshare, and are what Republicans would call “very progressive” in their parenting. But the un-PC nature of their household only adds comedy, as both Tucci and Clarkson deliver terrific performances. I’d actually never seen Patricia Clarkson do anything but “Pieces of April,” and I can now say she does comedy just as well as drama. She’s got one-liners that I won’t give away, but boy were they clever.
The film even gives us great minor performances from two people I love to see in just about anything: Lisa Kudrow and Thomas Haden Church. Church is Olive’s Literature professor who sets up the context of “The Scarlet Letter” in the first place. Kudrow plays his wife, who doubles as the school’s guidance counselor. Combined they maybe have 10 minutes of screen time, but both are fantastic as well.
The remainder of the cast—for me at least—was hit or miss. Amanda Bynes (didn’t she retire?) didn’t do much for me as the holier-than-thou Jesus Freak, and the same goes for Penn Badgely as Stone’s love interest. I wouldn’t say their performances were entirely poor, but they paled in comparison to newcomer Emma Stone and the well-established actors that surround the movie.
I’ve already mentioned that the film is directed and framed quite well, which has much to do with how clever and well-done the script was. So that leads me to content, which is actually the toughest part to review. Because, trust me, this movie takes more twists and turns than I’d be able to document, especially without giving away the big twist in the middle.
If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know the basic plot, but much of what I would say would give you the goods too soon. I will say that I think that the way in which the film tackles issues like sexuality, reputation, and what it is to find yourself in the middle of a web of lies is on an expert level. The theater was invested, and so was I.
What I admired most about this film is that, despite its subject matter, age demographic, and blockbuster status, was that it was not afraid to take itself seriously. Granted, it’s definitely a comedy. But what I mean to say is that the film never dumbs down for its audience. Quite the opposite, the film somehow reels you into emotional investment. I don’t think many people buying tickets in the coming weeks for “Easy A” will expect it to move them or make them think, but in this reviewer’s case, it certainly did.
I told my roommate that “Easy A” was probably the most enjoyable movie of the year. He asked if I liked it better than “Eat, Pray, Love” and I told him I’d rather watch “Easy A” than “Eat, Pray, Love.” And maybe that’s the best way to angle this review. Like I said, it’s not going to win an Oscar, but you can’t deny it merit. Go see it for yourself! If not only for some hilarious inside lit-nerd jokes that you and one other person in the audience will get.