“Easy A” combines Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter” with a witty comedy about how seeming “bad” can bring a lot of good.
The irresistibly charming Emma Stone (“Superbad,” “Zombieland”) plays the lead role of Olive Penderghast, a quirky, invisible-to-guys type. Of course, that reputation changes when, after one particularly dull weekend, she improvises a story about losing her virginity to a college boy to keep herself from embarrassment. She doesn’t want to be the “nerdy” idle. Even though this story of hers is entirely fabricated, and is told as if it was an isolated incident, the grapevine adds a little juice to her story. It doesn’t take long before she’s recreated as a floozy. But, ironically, she finds her new identity empowering.
She uses it as more than just a popularity stunt. For instance, she pretends to have sex with her gay friend, Brandon, who has been bullied by homophobic peers. When his classmates hear that he has supposedly had sex with the attractive Olive, it gives him a new, enviable standing with the people that ridiculed him before.
Brandon is the first of several misfits that claim to have “got lucky” with Olive. Thus, Olive’s supposed promiscuity becomes something of an agency for social change. Like Hester Prynne of “The Scarlet Letter,” she becomes an admirable anti-hero.
Olive is also connected to the novel through the film’s uber- Christan antagonist, Marianne (Amanda Bynes), who is out for the head of the alleged adulteress. Chastised, Olive wears a scarlet “A” on her clothing (akin to Hawthorne’s Hester). Olive also embraces her new identifier, acting the part of a sultry harlot by wearing brassieres with an embroidered scarlet “A” to school.
“Easy A” is incredibly likeable, oozing humor without ever being distasteful. And, despite its feeling of familiarity, the plot and script are anything but cliché and are instead surprisingly unpredictable.
In fact, Emma Stone may have found the script that will propel her among the young and elite, whereas other roles have only hinted at her potential. Her lead is reason enough to see the film.
But a strong cast of Oscar-nominated performers also surrounds and endorses her role. Olive’s witty quips seem inherited from her father, Dill, played by Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”). Olive’s lexical mother is handled well by Rosemary Patricia Clarkson. Together, they make one of film’s most endearing and supportive familial duos. Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways,” “Spider-man 3”), Olive’s favorite teacher, is another notable Oscar nominee that joins the cast.
I’ll quickly note that the film may offend some conservative viewers because the screenplay does have a way of making the antagonist such an “evil” Christian. The protagonist often mocks these beliefs, and Marianne is referred to as a “Jesus Freak.”
Despite these very minor turnoffs, “Easy A” shouldn’t be overlooked in any aspect (though it’s only done okay at the box office). The main character is a woman, but she’s a much stronger character than that found in the typical romantic comedy fare. Similarly, this film does not have a gender-specific allure. In fact, it is a must see for everybody because of Stone’s performance, its super compatible cast, and amusing charm.