I'm not normally swayed by the supposed power of romantic comedies, and now that I'm in my mid-late twenties, movies set in high school just remind me of my wasted youth. And yet Easy A managed to thaw my cold heart by being not only funny, but surprisingly smart, which is a quality cinema as a whole is sorely lacking nowadays.
Emma Stone stars as Olive Penderghast, which is far too unflattering of a name for such a pretty actress. But that's part of the Stone's - and Olive's - unconventional charm. Olive is the girl that all the guys would want, if they knew what they wanted. At first, I was weary of Stone playing the lonely, undesirable lead female. I don't know where the bar is set in Ojai, California, but at my high school, Olive Penderghast would be Queen of the cool kids.
But Olive isn't the lonely, undesirable lead female. At least, not really. She doesn't have guys falling all over her, but it's acknowledged more than a few times that she's quite the catch, and we get the feeling that she just lacks the confidence to stand out, which is a much easier pill to swallow.
Olive quickly becomes the center of attention when a rumor starts spreading that she lost her virginity. Not too long after, Brandon, a young gay male, asks her to pretend to sleep with him, to hopefully convince everyone he's straight. She agrees to it, and she quickly becomes some sort of imaginary prostitute, turning fake tricks for gift cards to various shops. In one funny moment, she agrees to tell everyone that she let a student fondle her chest in exchange for an OfficeMax gift card. She ends up getting an AutoZone gift card, despite not having a car.
Emma Stone is incredible, and if Olive Penderghast doesn't catapult her into stardom, consider me flabbergasted. Charming is a word that's thrown around a lot to describe performances, so I'll try something with greater impact - enchanting. Stone is absolutely enchanting in her role. She's beautiful, she's funny, she's witty. She's a skilled and comfortable leading lady and her performance carries the film. It certainly doesn't hurt that the supporting cast is just as on the ball. Thomas Haden Church plays Mr. Griffith, who is certainly cooler than any teacher I have had. He cares about Olive, and the rumors he's hearing have him understandably worried, but at the same time he trusts her, so when she assures him that everything is ok, he believes her. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are both wonderful as Olive's almost-too-understandable parents. They dispense nuggets of wisdom, but not as off often as they dispense jokes.
Good teen comedies post-1980s are uncommon, and great teen comedies are rare, but Easy A manages to achieve greatness by being a smart film and assuming its audience is just as smart. The jokes are funny, the characters are real, and Emma Stone is just so damn fantastic.
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