I can see the headlines now. “Easy A is an easy A!” It’s such an obvious sentiment that even the dumbest of critics will latch onto it. Frankly, it’s a bad line and it’s untrue. Easy A is a B, B+ at best. It certainly won’t redefine the way we watch teen comedies, but it’s moderately clever and funny and the exceptional cast does more than enough to make it rise above its own inadequacies.
The film begins with high school student Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) speaking directly to the audience via webcam: “The rumors of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated.” She goes on to say that there are two sides to every story and she’s about to tell us her side, the right one. It all begins when her best friend at school, Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) invites her over for dinner. Already having endured an evening with Rhiannon’s eccentric parents, she decides to make up a lie to avoid another one, claiming to be going out with a guy all weekend. The fib allows her to avoid another awkward rendezvous, but back at school the following Monday, Rhiannon pegs her for information about the made up guy. Olive doesn't know what to say, so she tells her that she lost her virginity. Unfortunately, Marianne (Amanda Bynes), the school Jesus freak, overhears and spreads the word, marking her as a vixen, reviled by the girls and sought after by the boys. However, Olive quickly learns that there are lots of guys that are willing to pay her for fake sex to increase their popularity and soon she finds herself overwhelmed and shunned by her peers.
I love movies that remind me of high school, those that can capture the pathos of that time where even the smallest things were monumental in the minds of those living through it. As an adult, I now look back on my time in high school and chuckle, well aware that every emotional, overanalyzed obstacle I thought I’d never overcome was as meaningless as the time period itself. But nevertheless, I remember the feeling and Easy A captures it well. The majority of the characters feel real and, better yet, the workings of the school are authentic. Word got around quick when I was a teenager. If I opened my mouth about anything, I could be assured that it would somehow reach the other side of the school before class even ended. That’s what happens here, setting up the entire story. This school felt like it rested in my hometown and the characters in it were my neighbors.
At least until the back portion of the film where the plot goes off the rails with a spurious teacher/student relationship that sets up far too many scene contrivances. I suddenly felt distanced from the characters because they, along with the up-to-that-point accurate depiction of high school, became more like cartoons. The film became an over-the-top farce, losing much of its charm in the process.
Everything up to that turning point was wonderful, with the exception of one nagging problem: the villain, Bible thumping Christian, Marianne, who is portrayed, along with her spiritual friends, in the meanest manner possible. They spew self righteous vitriol and their holier-than-thou attitude and behavior, which includes a showmanship like picketing, comes off as abrasive and bigoted. Although there are so called “Christians” like Marianne in this world, there are also down-to-Earth, kind, loving ones, but you wouldn’t know it from Easy A, which treats all Christians like stereotypes.
It’s disheartening to see this type of contempt for religious people in what is otherwise a light, warm, entertaining movie, but it’s still one of the funnier films of the year and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Easy A receives 3.5/5