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Easy A

Emma Stone in Easy A

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TEEN comedies are so used to following a tried and tested formula that it’s always a breath of fresh air when one comes along that’s a little bit smarter.

Easy A is just that type of film… a contemporary update of The Scarlet Letter that also has a keen genre awareness, from the films of John Hughes through to the more successful breakout likes of Clueless and Mean Girls.

It’s a chick flick with balls that’s every bit as easy for the guys to enjoy as the girls, and which boasts a star-making turn from Emma Stone (Spider-Man’s new Gwen Stacy).

She plays Olive, a bright student getting by unnoticed at a small town high school, who suddenly finds her life transformed when she ‘lies’ about losing her virginity to a fellow pupil.

Soon, the high school ‘Jesus freak’ (Amanda Bynes) has her labelled as an easy lay, and the obligatory teen homosexual asks her to help hide his sexual preference by also pretending to have sex with him.

Begrudgingly, Olive agrees to the latter request and fuels the rumours surrounding her promiscuity at every opportunity, even changing her wardrobe to include basque tops, each emblazoned with the capital letter ‘A’ to underline her similarity to the protagonist in The Scarlet Letter.

But while the move earns her popularity, if not respect, it soon takes an emotional toll as the misunderstandings mount and threaten to hurt those around her.

Will Gluck’s movie may take a revisionist, almost traditional attitude towards sex, but does so without compromising any of its actual sexuality.

Stone, for instance, remains an alluring presence thanks to her winning personality and moral code. She’s also hilarious, whether simulating raucous sex with a fellow pupil, or swapping insults and quips with either her high school nemesis or hip parents.

But she’s ably supported by a top-drawer cast, including Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the aforementioned parents, Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow as a husband and wife teacher and counsellor, Bynes as the holier-than-thou religious nut riding for a fall, and Penn Badgley as a possible love interest.

Gluck also ensures that the nods to past movies and literary sources are obvious, though not heavy handed, continually referencing them in smart ways, while poking fun at the absurdity of modern coming-of-age anxieties and the spreading of gossip via social networking devices.

He also tosses in a couple of really cool ‘John Hughes’ moments (sure to be savoured by fans of The Breakfast Club, Say Anything and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) that give rise to a couple of head-rush highs.

But while remaining consistently amusing throughout, Easy A never loses sight of the emotions at play, and there’s a genuine sense of love and camaraderie (and equally loss and consequence) surrounding most – if not all – of the main characters.

The overall impression, therefore, is that Easy A is a film to be savoured and which stands head and shoulders above most high school movies in the crowd. But then it’s always cool to be different!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 28, 2011