“Easy A” is an easy C-.
The new film stars Emma Stone (“Superbad”, “Zombieland”) as Olive Penderghast, a typical teenage girl who desires popularity and attention at her high school. And that’s precisely what she gets when a little white lie about losing her virginity turns into a massive rumor. Then her gay friend (Dan Byrd) offers to pay her to say she had sex with him (in order to hide his sexuality and prevent further torment by other students). The word spreads like wildfire, and soon numerous guys – similarly desperate – offer to pay Olive (usually in the form of gift cards) to say they had sex in order to build reputations that will overshadow their respective weight, looks or nerd status. In a sense, she prostitutes herself without actually having intercourse.
At first, Olive doesn’t appreciate or understand all the attention she is getting, but in time grows to enjoy her infamy and bursting wallet. This is illustrated when Olive changes her look to fit her new reputation by wearing tighter, skimpier outfits. It only becomes a bit silly when she attaches an “A” to all of her clothing (Olive is reading “The Scarlet Letter” in class). Her teacher, Mr. Griffin (Thomas Hayden Church), states: “I think you are taking the reading assignment too seriously.”
“Easy A” is loaded with attempts at laugh-out-loud satire and banter. Some of the humor comes from Olive’s sarcastic parents (the always reliable Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson); best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) who enjoys calling her names suited to the rumors; Mr. Griffin’s stiff attempts at being cool and guidance counselor Mrs. Griffin’s (Lisa Kudrow) own dirty little secret; and a wide array of John Hughes’ clips. The soundtrack includes some apropos songs (Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”). However, the narration doesn’t add anything to the story.
While “Easy A” is just another typical light-hearted teen movie, there is an underlying message just below the surface. Olive quickly learns that it is not worth sacrificing your dignity at the expense of a bad reputation. Initially, she considers bad attention to be better than no attention at all. In the end, Olive becomes more lonely and unsatisfied with her new popularity, and it makes it harder for her to get the attention of the guy she’s had a crush on for years (Penn Badgley). “Everyone is jumping at the chance to fake sleep with me,” Olive says, “but no wants to actually sleep with me.” Our response? Boo-hoo.
Overall, “Easy A” ends up being better than anticipated (I predicted an easy F), but the movie poster suggests a more worthwhile plan of action: “Let’s not and say we did.”