Movie Review - Easy A (***)

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Easy A.  93 mins.  PG-13.  Directed by Will Gluck.  Written by Bert V. Royal.  Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Dan Byrd, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, and Stanley Tucci.
High school-set movies reinterpreting classic literature have fared well on screen in the past.  Following in the footsteps of Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, we now have Easy A - a loosely-based reworking of The Scarlet Letter.  I know I read The Scarlet Letter at one point, and though I can't remember anything about it for the life of me, I'm pretty sure it wasn't as genuinely witty as Easy A.  The script by Bert V. Royal has a good amount of cheeky one-liners and the movie has an ace-in-the-hole in its leading lady: Emma Stone.  She's been honing her chops for a few years - first popping onto the film scene with 2007's Superbad and later giving winning turns in The House Bunny and Zombieland.  Now, she takes center stage and she nails it.  So if the script is great (though thematically repetitive and a little too reliant on voiceover narration), Stone is great, the supporting cast (apart from a pre-retirement Amanda Bynes) is great, then why am I so underwhelmed by the final product?
Easy A(nswer): director Will Gluck.  To say this movie is over-directed is an understatement. It's exhausting by the end - straining every second to keep things brisk and funny.  You almost wish he and his team would just take a breath and calm down.  Stop worrying.  The script IS funny.  Stone IS funny.  Let them do their thing - stop rushing to get to the next slo-mo walking-down-the-school-corrider shot, or the fast-fast-fast-sloooooow editing used to convey gossip being spread by texting.  The whole movie is just too...too.  Too much.
Stone plays virgin high schooler Olive Pendergast.  After making up a lie about sleeping with a college dude to shut up her best friend (Hellcats' Aly Mischalka) - word spreads, and before she knows it, she's helping her fellow classmates act like they scored with her so the gay guy can get some straight cred, the fat guy can get some cool cred, and so on.  Rather than run from it, Olive embraces the "school slut" label, pinning a scarlet "A" to all her tops.  But she ultimately learns that being a perceived slut isn't all it's cracked up to be.  A half-baked romance between Olive and her school mascot/childhood crush (Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley) is thrown in at the end, almost as an afterthought.
 
The best scenes are those showing Olive at home with her amazingly cool/wacky parents.  Having worked together before, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson have an easygoing, comfortable rapport between them, and they add immensely to the movie's charm and laugh factor.  Thomas Haden Church is also a delight as Olive's favorite teacher.  I'm not sure how old the screenwriter is, but I have to guess mid-30s given all of the '80s film references strewn about - that seem to fly over the target teen audience's head.  Some of the jokes aim a bit higher too.  I laughed hard at one line that nobody else in the theater seemed to get.  When approached by her gay buddy to fake sleeping with her, Olive replies, "Didn't you just tell me yesterday that you were Kinsey-6 gay?"  An arcane reference to a movie not many people saw, sure, but it's subtlely clever and one of the few times the movie doesn't strain to get a laugh.  While not an Easy A, this one's more like an Easy B-.    

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Tags: Easy A, Emma Stone, film, movies, reviews

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  • It saddens me that more kids today just don't understand a Kinsey reference.

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