Grade "A"

Sept. 20, 2010, 5:46 p.m. | By Sarah Harper | 13 years, 8 months ago

Quick humor and likeable characters make "Easy A" an instant hit

Take a rumor, an anonymous teenager and a star-studded cast, and you just might end up with director Will Gluck's latest film, "Easy A." The film is a loose adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" about a Puritan woman named Hester Prynne who is accused of being an adulteress and must wear a red letter "A" as punishment. Though the premise may seem a little dry, "Easy A" has updated the story with some huge laughs and a great set of characters. Gluck is a veteran in the teen comedy department, and it shows: the scriptwriting is almost flawless and the actors keep the energy up, even when the plot drags.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is a nobody at her high school in Ojai, California. When her Bible-thumping classmate Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears Olive lying about losing her virginity, the rumor spreads through the school. Olive becomes swept up in the attention, and – instead of dispelling the rumor – she takes her fake reputation to the extreme by embroidering an "A" on her clothes in an imitation of Hester Prynne. Soon, Olive's behavior leads to her social abandonment, and she's on the brink of losing her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) and her long-time crush, "Woodchuck" Todd (Penn Badgley). But Olive's lies start to get out of hand when she is blamed for giving a student an STD, and her antics threaten her teacher's marriage.

In one of her first leading roles, Stone's acting and comedic timing are spectacular; her blunt, sarcastic voiceovers are spot-on and effectively move the plot forward. Olive is a charming, wisecracking heroine who never once wallows in self-pity. The audience can't help but root for her when she gets sent to the principal's office or goes searching for answers from the local pastor (comedy genius Fred Armisen).

Stone delivers a knockout performance, but it's her on-screen parents who steal the show. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, who play Rosemary and Dill Penderghast respectively, strike comic gold as the highly embarrassing, yet loveable parent duo. Every scene with the two is brimming with laughs. For instance, at one point the Penderghasts inform their daughter that she's dressing like a stripper. Dill then attempts to soften the blow by adding that Oliver is a high-end stripper for governors or athletes.

The script is just as witty as the actors. Sure, there are raunchy comedy moments that deliver a few cheap laughs, but Olive's snarky comments and quick wit carry the most weight. The humor is far cleverer than expected, and even adults can find something to laugh about, be it teenage stereotypes, obscure literary references or cringe-worthy parenting moments. This intelligent humor sets this film apart from other teen comedies that only appeal to its market audience.

However, even a clever script cannot make up for the film's poor plotting. At several points, the audience is left unsure whether the conflict has been resolved or not. Olive resolves her problems too quickly and smoothly to be believable, and there is never a sense that she has grown as a character.

Fortunately, these flaws are smoothed over by an ending of John Hughes greatness. The cinematography is simplistic but appropriate, while an upbeat, modern soundtrack – featuring quirky artists such as Lenka and Rooney – matches the light, escapist tone of the movie. Although "Easy A" may not reach "Mean Girls" fame or become a cult classic like "Clueless," it has the same memorable one-liners and outrageously hilarious characters to measure up well.

As a whole, "Easy A" succeeds where other teen flicks do not, because the actors are genuinely funny without being raunchy and the script turns a tired cliché into something fresh and entertaining. The film isn't likely to win any Academy Awards, but if you're in need of a good laugh, "Easy A" should pass the test.

"Easy A" is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material. The movie runs for 92 minutes and is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Sarah Harper. Sarah Harper loves blackberry pie, beach trips and Pushing Daisies. More »

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