Easy A: High School Comedy, Starring Emma Stone in Career-Making Performance

Toronto Film Fest–Just when you thought that there was no more juice in American high-school comedies, comes along “Easy A,” a sharp, witty film with a career-making performance by Emma Stone, to prove that there are still fresh ideas and angles to this overused genre.
Director Will Gluck is obviously aware of the tradition of this type of film for he pays tribute to the 1980s maestro John Hughes by showing a clip from one of the latter’s popular features, “Sixteen Candles,” starring Molly Ringwald.
Indeed, lead actress Emma Stone has described her character in “Easy A” as “a girl who does everything she can to make it some half-ass version of “The Breakfast Club,” another quintessential John Huges youth film, starring Molly Ringwald, Alley Sheedy and other members of the then known clique, “Brat Pack.”
“Easy A” can serve as a companion piece to Amy Heckerling’s lovely “Clueless,” a reworking of “Emma,” which starred Alicia Silverstone. Like that movie, “Easy A” is a sharply observed comedy of manners and morals, steeped in today’s youth vocabulary, new social networks (Internet, cells, webcasts) and lifestyles, and based on a respectable literary source. The picture is loosely inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter,” adapted to the screen by Bert V. Royal.
And like other popular Hollywood high-school comedies (particularly “Mean Girls,” playing a variation on the Lindsay Lohan’s by now notorious persona) , “Easy A” has chutzpah and attitude to match, sort of saying, we all know that high-scchool is hell, so how do you make the most of it?
With the right promotion and handling (and some luck), “Easy A” should do to for its star, Emma Watson (better known unitl now for films like “Zombieland” and “Superbad”) what “Clueless should have done to Silverstone, put her on the map as a viable, talented youth star, with a wider range than given credit to. (Speaking of which, what has ever happened to Alcia Silverstone?)
The movie world-premiered at the Toronto Film Fest (in the Special Presentations series) and will be theatrically released by Sony this Friday, September 17.
When Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) challenges the alibi of Olive Penderghast (Stone) that she had spent the weekend home alone, Olive makes up a “wet hot” story (that should prove apetitizing to both male and female viewers), slaims to have lost her virginity to a college boy.
Predictably, Olive’s confession is overheard in the girls’ room by the religious and strict Marianne Bryant (played by Amanda Bynes), who goes on to disseminate the story all over school. As a result, Olive finds herself in the peculiar position of being stigmatized, and having to defend herself for her presumably bold sexual (mis)conduct.
Not to worry: Olive gets attention, plnety of attention, due to her presumably audacious sexual experience. Gradually, Olive herself begins to exploit her dubious reputation—and enjoy the results, both positive and negative. She even pretends to have sex with her gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) so that people won’t think he’s gay. In fact, she pretends to have sex with various nerds, thus changing their low status as well.
Soon, Olive begins to get paid for her services, not money but gift cards to Target or Office Max. Could she be labelled a prostitute by any standards? Is is sanctioning this kind of loose behavior Smartly, the comedy leaves these questions ambiguous and the answers to them would largely depend on the viewer’s personal value system.
In the second, weaker part, some colorful secondary characters are introduced, such as the critical Mrs. Griffith (Lisa Kudrow), the wife of her favorite teacher (Thomas Haden Church).
One of the narrative’s novelties, even if it sounds too good to be true (the whole movie is like a fairy tale) is to assign Olive two cool, liberal, and humorous parents, Dill and Rosemary Penderghast (played to perfection by indie stalwarts Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson).

The film’s title lends itself is to various, even contradictory, interpretations. “Easy A” could refer to the much sought-after school grade, to its desirable lady, and perhaps also to its source material, Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter.”

“Easy A” is uneven, but in its good moments, which are plentiful, it can stand right up there with the wittiest and smartest high-school comedies made over the past two decades.