(2010) director Will Gluck
Channeling hard on the John Hughes teen films of the 1980’s, Easy A attempts to encapsulate the high school experience in an arch and clever patter for the modern teen audience. Director Will Gluck rapidly but very reverently nods his head at Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and Say Anything… (1989), via the 17 year old protagonist of his own film, yearning wistfully for the romance of those bygone times…unironically, I might add.
Easy A is “The Scarlet Letter” in high school. Sort of. In a sort of pop post-modern fashion.
Emma Stone plays Olive Penderghast, the modern day Hester Prynne (of sorts), who is overheard telling to her best friend about a wild weekend fling she had (though it’s a fabrication), and quickly gets a reputation as a slut. When a gay friend of hers asks her to pretend to have sex with him at a party in order to give him a cover for his orientation, her faux sexual reputation grows, gaining her more and more would-be Romeos “buying” a chance to say that they also slept with her. She becomes a fake prostitute.
We get this whole story told to us by Olive herself, webcasting to the world, the true story, told with her amazingly urbane and clever commentary, which I found a little too amazingly urbane and clever to imagine a 17 year old spouting it. How many teenagers will make a joking reference to the Kinsey Sicks? I dare you to find one teenager who has heard of the Kinsey Sicks, much less reference them in a joke to another teenager who gets it.
There are hundreds of false notes throughout the film. Her parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, are equally urbane and over-the-top-ly loving and witty, in a schmoozey tone of utter overkill. And really, if anything, it’s the writing, the dialogue, plugged full of oh-so-clever bon mots like everyone just oozes a contemporary Oscar Wilde vibe.
The irony, in this post-modern-ish teen comedy, is how it yearns for the soppy sincerity of those 1980’s teen comedies, yet remains itself so arch and referential that it drums up none of that quality of reaction or emotional connection. Emma Stone is good in the film, more or less. But its ludicrous script doesn’t do anyone any favors.