Directed by Will Gluck
Comedy has generally been a male-dominated field. Sure, there are examples of female comedians in the world of media, but they are certainly in the minority, and even if you look at TV shows like 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation, while they are centered around female characters, those characters are surrounded mostly by men. Film comedy is even more male-driven than television comedy; men are almost always either the lead or one of the leads, and usually if a woman is the lead, it’s because it’s a romantic comedy. So whenever I see a film like Easy A that promises to be a straight-up comedy (a teen comedy, true, but many great comedies have been) starring a female, my interest is automatically piqued. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to cast a woman in the lead role of a comedy, even she is a talented actor like Emma Stone. You need a good script, a good supporting cast, and a good director; unfortunately, Easy A does not have all of these things. The basic concept of Bert V. Royal’s script is good: Olive (Stone), an unpopular high school girl lies about losing her virginity and consequently ends up with a reputation for being a slut. Instead of fighting the notion, she decides to run with it, taking inspiration from The Scarlet Letter, and ends up helping out the school’s other nerds and outcasts by letting them lie about having sex with her to boost their image. With that idea, the film is able to simultaneously expose and poke fun at the concepts of image, identity, reputation, and sexuality double-standards, not only among high school kids but among adults as well. The problems come with the details. The writing is peppered with tired jokes and one-liners that fail to impress. A perfect example was used as a selling point in the trailer - Olive’s main detractor, the pushily evangelical and stuck-up Marianne (Amanda Bynes), says, “I answer to a higher power,” to which Olive sarcastically replies, “Tom Cruise?”. Ugh. Tom Cruise jokes were dated well before this film came out. Easy A is full of jokes that fail to hit just like that one. Speaking of dated, are high school students really ashamed of being sexually active anymore? I sure don’t remember that being the case at my school. If I’m wrong and it is still this way in schools, then I wish the film had put more heft into that side of the story. It seems like this kind of film that deals so directly with the issue of girls trying to keep up appearances in high school for fear of rumors and petty retribution could have been more sensitively dealt with if written and/or directed by someone who could better relate to it, i.e. a woman. The failing jokes and lack of serious insight is just as much the fault of director Will Gluck, who should have reined in some of the more painful punch line deliveries and made an effort to get some real emotion and truth in the story, on top of pushing aside the temptation to unnecessarily bash all religion (it’s good to take religion to task for its failures, but it seems like pure “Religion is stupid” jokes here) and pay such cringeworthy homage to ’80s teen films, which only serves to remind the viewer of how Easy A fails to measure up. It should be noted, however, that given the problems, Emma Stone comes away from this film scratch-free. In her first true starring role, she is confident, convincing, and funny. Gluck’s comedic timing is a bit off, but Stone usually nails her timing. She definitely proves her future star potential with this film, which is only made more obvious by the lame performances of most of her other teenaged, or rather twenty-something aged, co-stars (Bynes is particularly annoying). In fact, the strongest scenes of the film aren’t any of Olive interacting with her classmates, they’re the scenes where Olive is at home with her parents, played by proven gems Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as loving but constantly joking parents who know too well how great and trustworthy a girl their daughter is to get mad at her for anything she’s doing. Tucci and Clarkson both have great timing, which only serves to make Stone’s timing in these scenes even better. I’d have preferred a movie about their family to this one about Stone’s tribulations at school. Still, although I sound like I’m being rough on it, I found Easy A generally agreeable. The film looks and sounds good enough to not be distracting, and there are some actually funny moments, even if there are not as many as I’d hoped. Stone really carries the film, and if there’s anything to take away from this film, it’s that she definitely has a bright future.
Three out of five suns