Jan 17, 2011

[Movies] Easy A (2010)

Easy A (2010)Beyond romantic comedies, I guess teen comedies come in a close second in terms of movie genres that I don't typically go out of my way to watch. But when they're made fairly well, they do end up being pretty enjoyable - we can go all the way back to Clueless to prove that kind of a premise.

There's something about teen comedies that are really thinly disguised attempts to make classic stories more popular. Clueless was based on Emma. 10 Things I Hate About You was based around The Taming Of The Shrew. Sydney White was based on Snow White. And yeah, I know that last one seemed like a weird example, but then my partner introduced me to that particular one, which wasn't as bad as I had initially feared.

This movie totally came out of nowhere, at least from my perspective, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I guess you can never really tell what work and what doesn't - but major kudos to whoever figured out how to put this particular movie together.

Easy A is a 2010 teen comedy loosely based on the novel The Scarlet Letter. It was directed by Will Gluck, whose prior credits seem very unassuming given he only had a few TV shows and at least one movie - Fired Up - prior to this one.

Emma Stone at the Zombieland world premiere at...Image via WikipediaThe movie begins with a narrative by Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), who appears to be recording a web video of some sort. She talks about how one weekend she lies about having a date in order to avoid going camping with her best friend, Rhi Abernathy (Aly Michalka). Instead she spends the weekend at home inevitably getting addicted to listening to a greeting card that plays Natasha Bedingfield's Pocket Full of Sunshine. Come Monday, Rhi presses Olive to tell her how her "date" went and she ends up lying about losing her virginity to a college guy.

Rhi inevitably spreads the news around the school and this catches the ire of Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes) and her group of religious conservative students. The group starts to harass Olive in and out of class and this ultimately lands Olive in detention when she tries to defend herself rather snidely. There she ends up hanging out with Brandon (Dan Byrd), who confesses that he's gay and is tired of being bullied. This eventually leads to Brandon proposing an odd deal - he asks Olive to pretend to have sex with him to dispel the gay rumors. He'd offer her some nominal form of compensation in exchange. They eventually do it and this leads to more and more guys paying Olive to pretend to sleep with her, thus further creating the image that she's a rather loose girl on campus.

Now this whole pretending to have sex with loser guys bit was a stroke of genius in terms of how to translate the Scarlet Letter's core story. The movie could have gone the direct route and just had her actually sleeping around, but I'm glad they were more creative than that. And the conservative church group angle nicely captures the Puritan aspects of the original story without going too over the top, at least in my opinion.

I was really surprised by how Emma Stone pulled things off. I had only seen her in Zombieland, and her acting abilities there were still seen but in a drastically different setting. This less over the top suburban setting went really well for her and she managed to keep Olive rather smart, witty and a bit more mature for age that would be expected. It probably helped (in some weird way) that the movie had her being raised by some pretty liberal new age parents in the form of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

The movie had a surprising number of pretty recognizable cameos, but I suppose that's to be expected in a fairly high profile comedy such as this one. I mean come on, we had Lisa Kudrow, Fred Armisen, Thomas Haden Church and even Malcolm McDowell here to name a few. Normally I'd assume the writer new some of these folks from previous work but Bert V. Royal is a relatively unknown writer with few shows and movies to his credit. The story goes that he wrote the screenplay in about five days, which is kind of believable given (1) this was based on another work of fiction and (2) it's the kind of story concept that once you get started, it just takes off on its own. Online buzz indicates that Royal might try to adapt Cyrano de Bergerac and The Mystery of Edwin Drood into similar movies and I just might give them a chance, depending on the casting.

On a side note, what is it with Amanda Bynes and these kinds of adaptation comedies? Her filmography already includes She's The Man (Twelfth Night) and Sydney White (Snow White) and even What A Girl Wants was an adaptation of the movie The Reluctant Debutante. I fear she's become highly typecast in these kinds of roles and her options for expansion and growth as an actress may be severely limited. Emma Stone on the other hand shows a lot more promise and I expect her to really go places in the years to come, as long as she maintains her artistic integrity. It's no wonder why she got nominated for a Golden Globe given her performance here.

Easy A is a pretty great comedy (and we can drop the "teen" statement there) and is something that a wide range of people are bound to enjoy. It gets 5 inane excuses to bring in Pocket Full Of Sunshine into the movie.

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