Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Sony Pictures Releasing
Now Showing

With nods to both Clueless and Mean Girls, and an open acknowledgement to the oeuvre of John Hughes, Will Gluck's Easy A is that rare thing: a teen comedy with the smarts to entertain a wider audience. That's a pleasant surprise given Gluck's previous film, his first, was also a teen comedy. Fired Up!, about faux male cheerleaders, was an attempt to cross American Pie with Bring It On which failed miserably to be as good as either of those films.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is a smart and not unattractive high schooler who has somehow made it to 16 without being kissed; she doesn't seem to attract the attention of the opposite sex. All of that changes faster than you can send an SMS when she relates a fabricated weekend tryst to her BFF which is overheard by the school's self-declared moral compass Marianne (the recently retired then unretired Amanda Bynes), who declares all out war on this whore of Babylon.

Make that Hester Prynne, the heroine of The Scarlett Letter, for much like Amy Heckerling used Jane Austen's Emma as the blueprint for Clueless, Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal use Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel as a jumping off point for their satire of school politics and the often confused take on sexuality. The laws of the jungle that is high school are also brought into focus, though never as harshly as they are in Mean Girls.

Suddenly Olive is no longer anonymous (the guys' interest is piqued; the girls are pissed off) and she seizes on a way to use her newfound “reputation” for good; helping the geeks and the gays become “men” by pretending to have slept with them. Sure she's perceived as the school bicycle, but she knows nothing has happened so what's the harm?

This kind of thinking perhaps owes a lot to her parents, wonderfully played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as two liberal minded post-modern hippies. So chillaxed are the pair, they'll comment on their daughter's sudden wardrobe change as resembling a stripper's (a high class one, of course) but assume that Olive has a perfectly logical reason for doing so. Clarkson and Tucci steal every scene they're in, and one suspects most of their dialogue was improvised; I, for one, can't wait to see the outtakes on the DVD.

But Easy A belongs to Emma Stone. In much the way that Alicia Silverstone owned Clueless, Stone appears in almost every scene and carries the film effortlessly. She gives Olive smarts and sass, qualities that are sorely lacking in most modern Hollywood comedies for women of any age. Not only does Stone score a perfect A in her first leading role but this is likely to be the one that sees her graduate to bona fide star.

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