What I’ve Been Watching: Easy A

Easy-A-poster_2.jpgEmpire has a theory. They say that a great teen comedy happens almost exactly every five years. Clueless (1995); 10 Things I Hate About You (1999); Mean Girls (2004); and now, apparently, Easy A (2010).

Of course, they’re wrong. Since Mean Girls, we’ve had Juno (2007), which surely belongs to such a list, and John Hughes’ name became inseparable from the genre when he released, amongst others Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off one after the other in the mid-eighties.

With more than just a passing reference to the films of the late, great, director comes Easy A, the vehicle sure to propel Emma Stone to stardom.

Like 10 Things and Clueless it revolves around the plot of a piece of classic literature: in this case The Scarlet Letter.

When Olive lies to her best friend about losing her virginity, she doesn’t realise anyone else can hear. Before she knows it she’s got a reputation as the “School Slut”. Although shocked at first, she eventually decides to go with the reputation unfairly bestowed upon her, agreeing with Oscar Wilde that “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”.

With bouncy, zippy dialogue and a smart, confident heroine, Easy A is pure joy from start to finish. Every element, from Olive’s brilliantly dorky yet ever understanding parents, to its portrayal of high school as a breeding ground for the tiniest bacteria of gossip, all work together to make a more than worthy edition to this, often overlooked, genre.

Emma Stone shines as Olive: someone who is doing her best to survive the high school setting she longs to be clear of. In many ways her attitude represents the type of outlook we’d wished we’d had during our formative years: she sees high school for what it is for what it is – people doing their best to fit into a community which may have little bearing on what they do, or who they are in later life.

High School is a play, so Easy A claims, it’s up to us which part we choose.

Emma Stone as Olive, brilliantly balances smarts with charm, allowing us to be completely on her side, rather than seeing her as aloof or deceitful.

If there are any problems with Easy A, it’s that it doesn’t seem to afford the same kind of sympathetic voice to its evangelical Christian characters as it seems to almost every other role in the film.

I understand the need for every story to have a villain, it’s just a pity no real effort was made to make us understand the point of view of this one.

It’s not even that I have a particular problem with its depiction this particular brand of Christianity. As Simon Mayo said, when speaking of The Golden Compass’ apparent depiction of the Catholic Church: “if this is what your religion is like, it’s probably time to find a new one.”

It just seems like the film gives more time helping us understand the entirely unprofessional actions of one adult character, than it does the completely misguided and naive views of its teenage ones.

Despite this oversight, perhaps the highest compliment I can give Easy A is that it’s the most fitting tribute I can think of to the life and works of John Hughes. His portrayal of teenagers becoming a template for which this, and many other movies of the genre have followed. John Hughes is dead. Long live John Hughes.

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