By: Addison Wylie
In Easy A, there are references to the work of John Hughes. These nods are appropriate because the movie does, in fact, feel like something the filmmaker might’ve penned, directed, or had a say in. Easy A offers some low brow humour but it never feels juvenile. The film features well constructed characters; even if some characters are on screen for less than a minute. Overall though, Easy A is a teen comedy that doesn’t dumb itself down. Actually, it shouldn’t be labeled as a “teen movie” because I believe an older demographic could appreciate what director Will Gluck has done here. Gluck has made a sophisticated and fun film that certainly shouldn’t be labeled as anything else.
When people are put in sticky situations, one would feel claustrophobic and blurt out whatever would come to mind. Olive Penderghast, played by the delightful Emma Stone, is no different. In order to get out of a drab weekend with a friend, Olive lies to her friend Rhiannon, played by Aly Michalka, about her steamy upcoming date with a College freshman that weekend. On Monday, when cornered by her best friend and asked if she went “all the way”, Olive emits details about her erotic session with her “date”. In an instance, the rumour mill takes hold of Olive’s explanation and soon the tiny lie becomes a much larger one. The school is torn in half. Half the crowd thinks Olive is a hot girl who sleeps around, the other half thinks she’s a harlot including Marianne, a dedicated Catholic girl played by Amanda Bynes. When discussing her lie with her friend Brandon, played by Dan Byrd, Brandon conjures up an idea that will help his image. By faking a sexual experience with Olive at a public event, the high schoolers will think Brandon’s a cool dude and the bullying will stop. Olive agrees to his plan and soon enough, other kids who are getting bullied find out about the ruse and want Olive’s help. As the charades prolong, the snowball of lies gets bigger and bigger.
Easy A is very smart; in the technical and acting aspects and the script and direction. Bert V. Royal, who wrote the script, knows how to utilize sarcastic dialogue well and is able to use it effectively in scenes where serious matters are being discussed. It also helps that the movie has been cast with the perfect actors to deliver such lines. In scenes with Olive and her parents, played excellently by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, the dialogue is flowing in such a quick and snappy manner, that the scene never feels fake and the chemistry is always apparent. This is a flawless example as to why actors work better with each other and with the movie when they are handed a smart, well written script. The audience can tell that everyone is having fun, however, the fun doesn’t veer the actors off the path of making a movie. The chemistry is helped even more by Gluck’s direction. By Gluck offering direction but also letting the actors have leeway, the whole movie feels even more comfortable. Another stellar aspect about Royal’s script is that it’s not afraid to travel along a darker path while still enabling his biting dialogue. In scenes where the rumours spin way out of control and puts the characters into more uncomfortable situations, the script is still able to find a realistic storytelling route and the audience never feels discouraged when Royal begins taking a lot of risks. In fact, by taking these risks, the movie never feels like it’s just skimming the surface. The film is not afraid to emerge the audience and have them think. The tone Gluck provides is a mix of John Hughes and Todd Solondz and that’s a good thing.
By working with an exceptional script and by using professional, compatible actors, Gluck is able to have fun with the film itself by adding his own vision through the cinematography as well as the editing. Each shot is framed and lit very well making the movie very attractive. My hat is certainly tipped in the direction of cinematographer Michael Grady. The editing is great as well. Susan Littenberg makes use of different speeds to display how fast a rumour is spreading which is very effective and the shots from Olive’s webcam are cut perfectly with the story, providing an always funny commentary from Olive’s point of view. With all this said, there are a few instances where the visual continuity doesn’t match up. For instance, at a party where Olive and her crush Todd, played by Penn Badgley, are chatting, party goers appear and mysteriously disappear behind Todd. Normally, these things don’t distract me too much during a movie, but the extras in the background were reappearing so many times, that my eyes were drawn to that action instead of what was going on between the main players in the scene. These instances aside, Littenberg’s editing adds a lot to the style Gluck is portraying.
Easy A is a great reminder that films centring around teens aren’t always for high school students. When a film like this is grasped by the right people and the film is cast with the perfect combination of actors, a movie like this shines. I really hope Easy A doesn’t get categorized as “just another teen movie”. Especially with this being Emma Stone’s time to illuminate and she most definitely does. With Stone’s charming performance, the rest of the casts convincing performances, the movie’s sharp script and an interesting, stylish look and tone to the film, Easy A is one of the strongest comedies I’ve seen this year.