Easy A scores a B
I’m sure that during the pitch meeting for Easy A, someone described it as Saved meets Mean Girls. It’s got the sexy-but-funny redheaded leading lady of Tina Fey’s witty high school flick and the self-righteous religious villains of the pre-Juno teen pregnancy comedy. It’s a recipe that can’t go wrong…most of the time.
Rising star Emma Stone is Olive, a nerdy girl who is virtually invisible in her high school. Olive makes up a story about losing her virginity, which quickly spreads around the school. Knowing the power of the rumor mill, her gay friend (Dan Dyrd) asks her to fake a sexual encounter to make his friends think he’s straight. Soon Olive starts performing these fake sexual favors for nerdy guys all around the school, and making a pretty penny from it. Her preppy religious classmate Marianne (teen star Amanda Bynes) is horrified and seeks to ostracize Olive a la Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter. Instead of shame, Olive embraces her new slutty status, but soon learns that all the attention she’s received for pretending to be a whore might have permanently damaged her reputation.
With Lindsay Lohan’s career in the tank due to drugs and alcohol, Stone could become the preeminent funny ginger of her generation. Her ability to blend goofy with pretty makes her versatile and her raspy voice lends maturity to her teenage characters. Despite some of the more formulaic scenes in Easy A, she’s able to navigate the film back into funny territory.
Former teen comedienne Bynes is very reminiscent of Saved’s Mandy Moore, also a former squeaky-clean teen star. Her snotty character leads a religious group, which includes habitual high school senior Cam Gigandet, in a crusade against the evils of the teen world. She wants to save everyone’s soul, just like Moore’s character in Saved, and she’s willing to pull some dirty tricks to do it, again, just like in Saved.
While putting a new spin on The Scarlett Letter is an original idea, the film tends to fall into generic PG-13 teen comedy territory. Scenes with Olive trying to climb the social ladder or rebelling against the mean kids are basic enough to fit into any movie and it’s not surprising to learn that screenwriter Bert V. Royal reportedly wrote the script in five days. Thankfully, appearances from Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow, as dysfunctional married teachers, and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s oddball parents change things up a bit.
Still, like so many comedies, Easy A suffers from classic PG-13 syndrome. The original script was reportedly far more risqué, and probably would have been quite a bit funnier. The scene with Olive loudly faking having sex with Brandon could have used that jolt of adult humor to pull it from silly to Superbad-type funny.
While Stone shines, Easy A feels a bit more like a B than a top grade high school comedy.