I’ve been seeing so many mediocre movies lately that I completely forgot what it was like to be excited to see a movie until Easy A came along. The quality of adult romantic comedies has been in decline for the past few years (I know they’re genre movies so they all have to be sort of the same, but come on, put some effort into it!) We discerning rom com fans have had to turn to teen movies to meet our funny love story quota. Easy A, which is indeed a funny teen love story, goes something like this:
A teenage girl who’s tired of being ignored agrees to have fake sex with losers to help improve their social status, which earns her the label ‘trollop’ and inspires her to wear red As on her clothes like the main character in the Scarlet Letter.
The mere mention of classic literature in the blurb set off my spidey “this is going to be an intelligent movie” sense, and then when I saw the trailer, my super-clairvoyant ninja sense told me I was going to be funny and that I would love it. Hence my excitement. But the thing about expectations is that sometimes they are completely fulfilled.
First of all, I would just like to say that Bert V. Royal is my new favorite person. He’s the writer of Easy A and he did a fabulous job. In a teen comedy, you need to hit certain emotional points: initial loserdom, taste of popularity, implosion, public humiliation, triumph, etc. but the trick is to write a plot that’s different from other movies and doesn’t make it totally obvious that you’re hitting these points in sequence. Bert V. Royal did that. His dialogue also made me want to quote everything that Olive was saying, but I couldn’t because I was laughing too hard. The funny bits in the trailer barely scratch the surface.
”20% off at Bed Bath and Beyond? Is this what our imaginary tryst means to you? I fake rocked your world!”
Olive (Emma Stone) is, of course, the funniest. She’s so funny that I have a hard time believing that she’s totally invisible to everyone at school and that her only friend is a selfish bimbo named Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka). But she is. At least until Rhiannon goes away for the weekend. Instead of admitting that she spent two and a half days rocking out to a bad pop song recorded onto a greeting card, Olive makes up a college boyfriend. Rhiannon immediately assumes she lost her virginity to this guy.
because, I forgot to mention, Rhiannon is a slut who can’t buy a shirt that will actually button up the front without the risk of the buttons popping off and putting someone’s eye out
Rhiannon is also a gossip, so the lie spreads. Any talk of virginity and the losing thereof is anathema to Marianne (Amanda Bynes), local Jesus freak extraordinaire, and her loyal toadies (one of whom is Cam Gigandet, one of those Twilight guys), so they start plotting to get rid of her. The character of Marianne and the role she plays in the story is ripped almost wholesale out of Saved!, so much so that my mind interchanges Amanda Bynes and Mandy Moore’s faces in my recollections of the movie.
Mandy, Amanda… same name… coincidence?
The fake boyfriend thing isn’t so bad, but Olive’s got a soft spot for helping people in trouble. So when Brandon (Dan Byrd), a tormented gay boy, asks her to be his fake girlfriend, she has fake sex with him at a party and the Jesus crowd spreads the rumor that she’s a trollop. Olive’s rather enjoying the attention, so she rolls with it. She embroiders As on her clothes and starts pimping her fake services out to other losers in need in exchange for gift cards from companies who presumably paid for product placement in the movie.
And why not? Having fake sex looks like almost as much work as real sex.
Olive’s grand scheme is a bit more complicated and tenuous than they let on in the trailer, and it’s a retarded way to get noticed, of course. That’s probably why no one’s used it in a movie before. But it works. It really does. For the movie, I mean. Obviously for Olive it backfires about three quarters of the way through the film. As a sideline to all this is her crush on Todd (Penn Badgley), who looks like a suave player type in the trailers but is actually a goof who would wear a woodchuck costume in public.
This would be why Penn Badgley’s character is referred to as ‘Woodchuck Todd’ on the IMDB credits
Todd is curiously unperturbed by the nasty rumors that are going around, feeding Olive’s fantasies of them running away together like characters at the end of an 80s movie. The 80s-movie-obsession-in-modern-teen thing has been done to death, but I can forgive Easy A, because it doesn’t use the 80s thing to define Olive, just to mine for jokes. And make fun of teen movies from the 1980s.
Doooon’t yooooou, forget about meeee
In 80s teen movies, the characters never had any parents to get in the way of their troublemaking and sex-having, but in Easy A the parents are present, actually engaged in parenting, and hilarious. They’re the sort of people who’ll say anything and treat Olive almost like another grown up. Olive’s dad (Stanley Tucci) repeatedly feigns surprise over the fact that Olive’s black younger brother (Bryce Clyde Jenkins) knows he’s adopted, and Olive’s mother (Patricia Clarkson) freely admits to having been a slut in high school.
in short, they’re the sort of parents that everyone wants but no one has
Between Olive’s fake skankyness, the parents’ let’s-lay-it-out-there parenting, Penn Badgley in stupid costumes, and the deadpan schoolteachers (Thomas Hayden Church, Lisa Kudrow, and Malcolm McDowell), Easy A is almost too hilarious. My only complaint is that a lot of it is shot in close-up and sometimes I was like “back the f- up, cameraman,” especially in the beginning before I was used to it. I blame director Will Gluck. (Boo! Take your finger off the zoom button!) But I did eventually get used to it (or they stopped doing it), so by the end I was ready to give this film an unequivocal rating of “awesome.” Go see it, like now.