Wednesday 2 March 2011

EASY A DVD review

Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this new Emma Stone starring High School comedy. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Hoping to clear her besmirched name via a webcast, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) delivers an impassioned speech about how she went from a high school nobody to the school tramp in one easy step. Tired of having to explain to her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) why she never has a boyfriend, Olive decides to invent a secret liaison with a college boy, just to shut her up. By accident her fake tale of one night romance is overheard by the schools uptight, prissy do-gooder Marianne (Amanda Bynes), and soon the whole school is talking about Olive's sinful ways. Rather than trying to salvage her reputation, Olive agrees to help out her bullied gay friend by arranging another fake night of passion to complete the ruse he is straight. It doesn't take long before all the bullied kids are knocking on Olive's door hoping to boost their social status, and what's wrong with a girl getting some payment for her fake romantic services?

Avoiding the saccharine predictability that befalls too many teen comedies these days, Easy A owes all its success to the bright new star that is Emma Stone. She's impressed before in Superbad and Zombieland, but this is her arrival as a leading lady, and she's a sassy, ballsy and sexy one at that. Olive Penderghast is the kind of cool, witty high school virgin that only seems to exist in the movies, taking her new found infamy in her stride. In real life every boy in the school would want to be with her, although you'd have to be prepared to be shot down by her witticisms.

Here, Emma Stone definitely stakes her claim as a new queen of comedy, and in line with her character's wish for her life to be like a John Hughes movie, she's easily able to combine the redhead rebellion of Molly Ringwald with the smart mouth of Ferris Bueller. A timeless character that would have fit in brilliantly with Shermer, Illinois' finest, Olive's at least three of The Breakfast Club rolled into one, is smarter than you and she knows it.

Whilst not a complete retread of the story of The Scarlet Letter (the book and film are featured in the story), Easy A does what the best high school literary adaptations of the last fifteen years have done by using what's important and ditching the rest. Choosing to ignore the overly righteous groups that start to attack her character, Olive can't help but fan the flames a little by embroidering a scandalous red A onto her clothes, just like the main character from the Scarlet Letter. The situation may be far from ideal, but it's allowed Olive the chance to unleash her inner sex kitten and enjoy herself a little.

Olive does have a central love interest and object of desire (Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley), but for the most part Olive's adrift in a world of loners and boners, having to contend with the desires of a parade of high school boys with some seriously odd fake fantasies. What Olive also has is the coolest parents ever put on film, a clear indication of where she's got her smart-as-a-whip sense of humour from. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are a great double act as Olive's (perhaps a bit too) liberal parents, offering their daughter guidance but allowing her to fix her own mistakes, even when she starts to dress just a little bit too whore-ish. Along with Thomas Haden Church's hip teacher, the film's only major flaw is that the 'adults' don't seem particularly realistic, but it's a forgivable move when it gives Olive people as witty as herself to bounce off.

Although the idea of a male cheerleader comedy sounds beyond awful, I actually enjoyed Will Gluck's previous directorial effort, 2009's Fired Up!. It took what I expected to be a formulaic high school film and laced it with a dry, witty and at times acerbic sense of humour. Both films carry that similar sense of humour, picking apart the addictive but lame parts of life. Take Easy A's constant use of Natasha Bedingfield's craptastic song 'Pocket Full Of Sunshine' as an example; it gets highly addictive. If Gluck continues making films this smart and funny, he's destined for great things.

The story towards the end may rely too heavily on the teen comedy conventions the rest of the film mostly avoids, but it has a nice nostalgic nod to John Hughes' films that will leave any fans of 80's movies smiling. Easy A is smart and sassy, and well informed by all the teen movies that have come before it. It's easily the best high school comedy this side of Mean Girls, thanks in no small part to its shining star, Emma Stone.

A word of warning though... be prepared to have 'Pocket Full of Sunshine' playing in your head for the next few weeks.



  1. It's a shame that comedies tend to get overlooked come award season. I know Emma Stone was nominated at the Golden Globes, but I'm willing to risk my reputation by saying that I thought her performance here in Easy A was Oscar worthy. I haven't seen Rabbit Hole so I can't judge Nicole Kidman's performance in the film. But I have the feeling that she like Annette Bening's nomination for The Kids Are All Right was purely because Oscar has recognized them before with nominations (and for Kidman a win). I still feel that Natalie Portman was the right choice for the win, but it would have been great to see Stone get the recognition she deserves. She is an underrated actor.

  2. Absolutely. Comedy always gets overlooked by Oscar voters, unless it's starring someone over 50 who they're mates with. Bening's nomination always bothered me because, although I have no problem with her performance, it's not a leading role. I'd have rather seen Julianne Moore receive a nomination, or (god forbid) Hailee Steinfeld be placed in the right category. The Golden Globes may always be looked on as a lesser achievement than an Oscar, but at least they do recognise the comedy genre.