Easy A is a romantic comedy about a straight-shooting high school girl who becomes the subject of a wave of gossip and rumour, a wave she does little to quell, which changes her social position in the school forever. The film stars Emma Stone, as well as Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow, and Penn Badgley among others. The film, which is many ways a modern rendition of The Scarlet Letter (referenced extensively in the film), follows Olive, as an acute giving-streak leads to the destruction of her reputation despite having done nothing at all. Easy A was directed by Will Gluck and written by Bert V. Royal.
This film was a very pleasant surprise. I went into it expecting something decent, its reputation would suggest at least as much. I was in no way expecting one of the best-written rom-coms since When Harry Met Sally, which combined deceptively hilarious dialogue with very sudden yet shockingly appropriate tonal switches, making the few moments of sobriety about this film count for much more than their minutes. That’s a very steep task, and one that this genre tends not to do all that well, but Easy A makes sport out of injecting moments of sincerity smack in the middle of its comedy riffs, and it does it in a way that feels completely organic, which is a serious feat. It’s also absolutely hilarious, to a degree that, once again, I don’t think I expected.
Emma Stone is great in a performance that earned her a Golden Globe nod. In fact, in a rare criticism of the writing, Olive’s goodness in the context of this story probably wouldn’t have shown enough without Stone and the sincerity she brought to the character, in that evidence was a little lacking solely on paper. But the acting quality didn’t stop there; most every role in the film was filled by an actor who brought charm to their relatively smaller inclusions. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are just delightful as Olive’s parents, an absolutely irresistible. The same is true of Thomas Haden Church, and is unmatched in Penn Badgley’s character, who barely exists on paper. Given that, one has to acknowledge the writing is extremely imperfect, and probably sacrificed character work for good comedy, but the effect of that is covered up by supplementary support from a really strong cast.
There is some amount of incredulity I held about some plot points. Olive’s guilt about “breaking” the marriage of her favourite teacher is a little strange, when she called herself a homewrecker I figured his wife was going to suspect that he’d slept with her. The way it actually happened, I have a hard time understanding why she assigned herself any more than a very small amount of guilt at all. I also think some of her decision making as a character was hard to believe and/or hard to get behind. It’s one thing to be an unflinchingly giving person, what she did was another thing entirely. Characters exacerbating their own situations isn’t a rare occurrence, you can’t expect characters to act rationally at all times, but the way in which it seemed to get out of hand was a bit much and felt out of character at certain points.
In spite of that, it does a pretty bang-up job addressing the social issues it was targeted at. A more accurate and on-the-nose representation of the elaborate game of Chinese Whispers that is high school gossip you won’t see, as well as a slightly subtler nod to the double standard of slut-shaming. It never gets to the point where it feels preachy, it’s never put in as many words, but the effect is there and it works pretty well. It’s one of those instances where one of the main ideas of the film is the driving force of the plot, but still isn’t shoved in your face along with the moral of the story as a line of dialogue.
All in all, Easy A was just an inescapably enjoyable film, and a refreshing re-evaluation of the romantic comedy genre for me. I’d emphasize once more how funny and well written it is in parts, and, where it isn’t, it’s supplemented by a cast that performs the hell out of it. It surprises me that Bert V. Royal hasn’t really done work on a proper feature film since this one. His IMDb says he’s got a couple things in pre-production and filming respectively, the details of which are scarce, so hopefully we’ll see something of his on the big screen once more. In the meantime, I’d recommend Easy A for a really good time and some even better laughs.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 74/100 Aryamaan’s Score –