Sure, Easy A plays fast and loose with the concept of The Scarlet Letter, casting its own lying tween as a modern day Hester Prynne caught in a scandal based on text messages and vlogs, but the other thing this film pays a large homage to is '80s teen comedies, particularly those from the John Hughes canon. In fact, so much love is paid to the movies of that decade that Olive (played by Emma Stone) even wistfully wishes that her life were like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Say Anything or Can't Buy Me Love. Who can blame a girl who has likely been introduced to Patrick Dempsey as a brain surgeon for crushing on the younger version of him on a riding lawnmower? Or for wanting a Lloyd Dobler instead of the gross boys at her school who willing ply her with Red Lobster gift cards in exchange for faux sexual favors? And really, who doesn't want to party on a parade float with Ferris? But referencing those movies and actually having Easy A be considered a worthy successor to them (like Clueless or Mean Girls, rare films that can hit a believable romantic note about high school without going the raunchier American Pie route) are two completely different things. And while Easy A follows the formula of those retro gems, as I've broken it down below, it doesn't quite reach the high bar it set.
Girl lies about having sex to impress her friend, then finds a way to use her newfound trashy reputation to help her survive high school and make some cash (or gift cards) in the process. Olive even breaks the fourth wall to her talk directly to the audience. Ferris Bueller himself would be impressed.
Olive isn't exactly your typical Molly Ringwald character. She's a smart, funny redhead who is a bit on the socially awkward side, gets ignored by boys she likes and has a truly bizarre family. But she's terrible at sewing A's on her shirts, so forget a prom dress, and she's quite a bit more outspoken and willing to throw caution and her reputation to the wind to gain popularity. That said, she's totally likeable and the most compelling thing about this movie. In fact, one of the best moments in Easy A is just a montage of her spending an entire weekend listening to that hateful "Pocketful of Sunshine" song. Much as that song is like nails on the chalkboard, I would have watched that scene for another 20 minutes just because of her. Now that's star power in the making.
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson make a good crazy, overly loving, overly sharing couple of hands-off parents with a sarcastic sense of humor. Their cute adopted son, though, is there for no apparently reason aside from some quick jokes about sex. Still, they make an amusing, if slightly unoriginal, duo.
The Love Interest
Penn Badgley is far more tolerable here than as the irksomely stupid Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl. He's just sort of bland as far as a love interest for Olive goes. They wrote in some interesting character stuff for him, which helps, but he could be replaced by any somewhat attractive young actor and it would be just as convincing.
The Best Friend
Aly Michalka (who is currently on the atrocious Hellcats) really should not be allowed to act on anything that doesn't air on the Disney channel. Even then, I'm not entirely sure that it should happen. She's Olive's big breasted, loud-mouthed best friend and she comes off as unsympathetic and harsh, even at the points of the movie where you are seemingly supposed to think her character is just a fun, obnoxious teen. Perhaps being shoved in the tween machine too early removed her from actual society so she has no understanding on how real kids act and talk. When she jokingly calls Olive "bitch," it rings false.
Cam Gigandet is sort of the bad guy of the movie because he ends up fake-giving Olive an STD... and then there's another guy who thinks that Olive is actually prostituting herself, but both situations are resolved fairly quickly, so there's not a huge amount of conflict. There's no dumb jock or angry sister here, sadly.
There's a teacher who thinks he's cool. Check. A guidance counselor who gives the worse advice in the world. Check. A principal who just likes to yell. Check. And an entire student body who like to spread gossip like wildfire. Check. Pretty typical high school dramatics.
The Loveable Random Guy
Dan Byrd (of Cougar Town) makes a funny gay pal for Olive, but he's underutilized and not around much at all once he gets the ball rolling on the plot. I would have liked to have seen him used more - like, say, falling in a pool and pretending to drown in order to get rescued by Penn Badgley.
Little Miss Perfect The worst of the teens in Easy A is played by Amanda Bynes, who I normally kind of like. Her preachy, god-fearing character is very one-note and predictable, and it's getting past the point where Bynes can really play that age. She may only be in her early 20s, but it's time she graduated to college comedies instead. As self-important high school girls go, we'll take the outright bitches instead.
The film hits its mark in a bunch of the major categories, making it actually a fun way to spend an hour and a half, but the supporting cast here often falters. And while a year from now I'll remember Stone, ten minutes after the movie ended I couldn't remember that Byrd's character was a guy named Brandon. That name won't stick like Ducky. There's no Long Duk Dong in this movie, either, just Badgley in a woodchuck costume. So while Easy A was much more clever than Love Don't Cost a Thing (which actually tried to remake Can't Buy Me Love) or the host of other shows and movies that have paid homage to '80s "classics," it's unlikely to become one itself.
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