Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Mature Thematic Elements involving Teen Sexuality, Language and some Drug Material
Directed by: Will Gluck
Written by: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Aly Michalka, Dan Byrd, Stanley Tucci & Malcolm McDowell
Plenty of teenage movies come out every year. Most of them feature an overly cheesy romance full of unconvincing 20-somethings portraying high school kids. Every now and then, a rare film comes along that captures the joys of being young and the adolescent drama that teenagers face on a daily basis. It’s easy to forget how tough times seemed as a high school student. It’s easy to forget how painful insults from your peers could be. Well-done stories about teenagers can perfectly encapsulate all of those feelings in a meaningful and entertaining way for any age group. EASY A is not only one of the best teenage comedies I’ve seen in the new millennium, but one of the best films in that specific subgenre ever.
Olive is a seemingly invisible good girl in a California high school. After a little white lie about losing her virginity escalates, Olive finds herself as an unwanted center of attention. Using her completely untrue reputation to her advantages, she banks on spreading more rumors about her false sexuality with classmates she really doesn’t sleep with. It’s the ultimate meaning of the term “Let’s not and say we did.” However, the realization of just what sort of trouble she’s getting herself into dawns after losing friends and becoming the ultimate outcast. Needless to say that Olive will do whatever she can to clean up her name.
Narrated by Olive through a webcam, EASY A feels like a solid young adult novel turned movie. It’s an awesome teenage comedy that has authentic characters. The dialogue doesn’t feel scripted in the slightest. This scenario being shown isn’t exactly out of the ordinary either. It’s about as everyday as a group of kids being stuck in detention together or a girl turning sixteen. Therefore, it’s easy to get emotionally involved with a character as likable as Olive. Emma Stone delivers her A-game as the teenage protagonist. Though her filmography ranges from quality to questionable, Olive is the best role she’s been given thus far and showcases all of her talent as the lead.
Besides Emma Stone, the entire cast of side characters are great too. Though some of these performers aren’t given a huge amount of screen time, the smallest of roles are memorable in some way. Malcolm McDowell plays the school principal for about five minutes in three brief scenes. Recently I had some girls get on me about my criticizing of Gus from FAULT IN OUR STARS (another good teenage-aimed movie). No guy is as perfect as that one-note character, but Penn Badgley plays Stone’s romantic interest as someone who I believe exists. Meanwhile, Cam Gigadent and a surprisingly tolerable Amanda Bynes are fantastic as Jesus freaks that tick off the viewer. There are plenty of other notable performances (Thomas Haden Church as a teacher, Aly Michalka as Olive’s best friend, etc.), but Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play the best parents in the world. There’s real chemistry between the two. Their delivery is hysterical but also touching.
The sense of humor in EASY A is as great as the dramatic angles being presented. Everything is funny but believable. The movie hearkens back to the good old days of John Hughes’s prime and comes as the ultimate homage to 80’s teen movies. Emma Stone’s Olive references these flicks in some of her dialogue. Bert Royal’s script also includes a whole lot of self-aware dialogue poking fun at the clichés in every teenager-aimed flick, but does so in a way that’s fresh and enjoyable. One thing that should also be highly praised is that EASY A is endlessly rewatchable. I’ve seen it about six times since its release in 2010 and it’s just as excellent during (if not improving with) every viewing.
Through down-to-earth writing, great performances, and genius comedic sensibilities. EASY A is as funny and entertaining as it is emotionally involving. EASY A easily earns a grade higher than the one already in the title. This is an amazing comedy that happens to revolve around teenagers, but will entertain every demographic. There’s no other way of saying this, but EASY A is a must-see!