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February 13, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Easy A

You can probably imagine squealing like a twelve-year-old at the prospect of seeing the trailer for this film. I’m still really a twelve-year-old at heart, with a much better tolerance for alcohol and road rage that would knock your socks off. But this brought me back. Easy A has a witty, promising young star who made an impression even in her brief appearance in Superbad next to scene-stealer Jonah Hill. There’s also the highly appealing fact that this is a movie set in high school that doesn’t revolve around a saccharine, vomit-worthy teen romance with some pansy vampire. It offers commentary on the nasty nature of gossip and the ways it can manipulate to your advantage. I’m a bit of a whore for social commentary, really, so Easy A promised much.

The plot revolves primarily around Olive (Emma Stone, of Superbad), a teenager who’s suitably snappy enough to carry much of the storyline. She’s not afraid of the school’s do-gooder religious nutter and resident ‘popular girl’ Marianne (Amanda Bynes), who does a surprisingly good job of being so nauseatingly clean-cut that you’re half-expecting her to turn her sanctimonious gaze on you. She and boyfriend Micah (Cam Gigandet) spend most of their time talking about Jesus and feeding less fortunate people to the social wolves. It’s a poor man’s attempt to create a despicable character using less-than-original character traits, and it sometimes irks.

Easy A takes its inspiration from The Scarlet Letter, a novel about a woman ostracised for her extra-marital affairs and who was eventually sainted. Olive begins the films as someone fairly anonymous in her high school, with her own set of friends and her own interests. Things start to change, however, when she agrees to help out young gay teen Brandon (Dan Byrd) escape the torture of high school homophobia by pretending to sleep with him at a massive party. Word soon leaks out that Olive is accepting token gifts in return for helping people escape the scourge of high-school judgement. And while she charges a nominal fee for her services, she find the price she is paying to be much higher.

While for most people, being known as the town bike in high school when you are, in fact, a virgin would mean the end of life as they know it. Indeed, there are instances of the rumour mill and unscrupulous roommates taking things too far, as with the case of Tyler Clementi. Easy A presents an emotion-light version of the same problem, with the more difficult areas of such a topic glossed over and replaced with comedy.

The area most noticeably ignored is the reaction of Olive’s parents to her gradual slip’n’slide down the reputation scales. They (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) ask her whether anything’s wrong and tend to do almost nothing when the very worst about their daughter seems to become apparent. When Olive, for example, tries to ensure they know that the rumour she has Chlamydia is ‘totally false’, they don’t do anything you’d expect, which is a little hard to swallow. They’re either heavily sedated or they’re parents of the year. They never push, but remain open until their kids finally crack with whatever is weighing on their mind. In reality, it just doesn’t work that way.

The main problem with this film is that in follows in the gargantuan wake of Mean Girls. The movie that made Tina Fey a household name is a snappy commentary on the goldfish bowl that is high school, and it was clean-cut enough that the movie could appease even the sturdiest teen-movie hater. Fey’s snappy one-liners and rich character development gave audiences something to sink their teeth into, while simultaneously proving that movies about high school didn’t have to be as cringingly bad as the Twilight series. If you sat down and take notes, Mean Girls offers a formula for comedy and teen comedies that can work for years to come.

But the director of Easy A, Will Gluck, seems to gloss over the areas where a biting comment could have made this movie, and did actually make Mean Girls. Teen queen Marianne sails over all troubles, while Olive gives it her best shot to escape completely unscathed from this episode of her social life. Throw in her bizarrely calm parents, the sudden appearance of romance and the diluted teacher-as-mentor relationship, and it becomes a murky puddle of ambition.

Easy A is fun, yes, but it’s a sieve. There are just too many holes for it to stand up on its own as something you could watch more than once.

View the trailer here.


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