Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Easy A (2010) TH

Imaginary foreplay is the newest rage

"Easy A" is about a mixup that spirals out of control in a moderately populated town high school in California that blends literature, religious fanaticism, homages to '80s John Hughes flicks as well as adolescents at their peak with hormones. This is frequently narrated with snappy dialogue that's self-aware of its every move to a fault, as it often arrives at conclusions even before it allows the viewer to. It includes some humorously awkward situations of high school life, as well as pokes fun at other teen flicks even though it ironically embraces some of the same cliches. Minus the honesty and self-degradation and it's still riding as a passenger on the same train.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is overheard in the ladies room by the do-gooder Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes) when she tells her best friend Rhi (Aly Michalka) that she slept with a fictional guy named George despite still being a virgin to dodge going on another uncomfortable camping trip. Marianne, being the antagonist of the story and the moral crusader she is, sticks her nose high and uses the modern day equivalent of a rumor mill--text messages and social networks--to self-righteously put Olive, who was previously hidden from view, back in her place. Or so she thought. Olive has a hide thicker than a rhino and attempts to use reverse psychology on her hecklers and simultaneously fake it till she makes it about her own dating status. Marianne's lackeys come at her but she's like instant oatmeal with comebacks. After getting in trouble over calling one the "T" word, she serves detention with Brandon (Dan Byrd)--a gay kid who's made fun of and gets into fights--and he begs her to pretend to have sex with him so people will lay off his back. They go to a party so the socially elite can be a witness and both put on a noisy stir in the bedroom while none of the drunkards are the wiser.

Why this charade wasn't stopped short was because Olive has liberal, adoptive parents who still think they're cool and trust that she'll make the right choices and correct her own mistakes. The overly honest mom played by Patricia Clarkson is hilarious because she says everything the daughter doesn't want to hear and doesn't always come with the best advice. Olive goes about in seductive outfits with an "A" stitched on relating to a literature story called "The Scarlet Letter" and takes it all in with stride as to whether she's gawked at or dismissed. From what at first started out as having sympathy for Brandon, turns into a gift-card giving business where she pretends to give nooky to unconfident guys who want the status but without actually doing the physical deed. This part of the story doesn't exactly transition due to it never being explained that she's greedy or desperately needs money. Though despite her cunning wit that's twice her age, she still seems a little naive with the trappings of a teen as to what she's doing and without exactly thinking about the afterwards. It has moments of causing the pacing to get lost in the shuffle and her character development to feel up and down: one moment helping those who can't help themselves, to going with the flow and then back again when she volunteers to take the rap for someone other than a student. After a date gone bad and a meet up gone right, she wants people to revert their stances to get her life back in order until she finds out people's true colors.

"Easy A" seems like an abstinence ploy within a ploy, but I digress this isn't out to make a major point about the subject of promiscuity besides to say that you should own up to your own actions and not perpetuate notions if you didn't actually do any action. This is more sarcastic, playful and clever than roll-on-the-floor funny--partly because it seems too well scripted than naturally delivered--but it comes with a relating factor that a chunk of teens go through when it comes time for blossoming sexuality: how to tell what they like, how to go about finding it and most importantly how to do it. Not to mention double standards of girls and boys, and peer pressure to do it and then an opposite pressure not to do it. This has an original take on an age old idea that covers common ground but came with some contrived caricatures such as the I-know-exactly-what-to-say knight in shining armor conveniently showing up at just the right moment despite being peppered throughout and giving a nod to John Cusack. Is that supposed to qualify as a reward? Not to mention what sucked out intrigue was a chunk of the story feels laid out like a spoon fed blueprint with easy little chapters and nearly every nuance told to what's going on even though the story is fairly simple on its own. Fortunately this did right by not having any closing morals pushed on the audience rather than letting them choose themselves where they stand.

Director: Will Gluck (Fired Up!)
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell
Website: IMDB