Too often, youth-centric entertainment only perpetuates the perceived importance of popularity and the assumption that one’s virgin status is some adolescent ailment that must be shed before adulthood. Will Gluck’s Easy A is the satirical alternative, cleverly exaggerating those teenage truths and genre cliches through snarky, self-referential humor.
The adorable Emma Stone plays Olive, a plucky, precocious high schooler whose white lie about an imaginary tryst with a college student circulates through the campus, transforming a below-the-radar bookworm into the school slut. Relishing her newfound attention, Olive keeps up the charade by parading around in corsets and staging fake liaisons to help the dweebs and closeted gays. But she doesn’t actually do anything risque, other than trade rumors for gift cards.
Fed up with her reputation, Olive broadcasts a webcam confession, an overt reference to the YouTube generation, to no one in particular, detailing the various stages of this salacious rumor with well-written flashbacks. Along the way, screenwriter Bert V. Royal integrates slick parallels to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, a book most of us begrudgingly read in high school about sin and guilt in the 17th century.
Olive seeks advice from her busty best friend (Alyson Michalka), her concerned English teacher (Thomas Haden Church), a hysterical guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow), and her refreshingly screwball parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson).
The adult supporting cast is witty, yet underdeveloped, making this primarily “The Emma Stone Show,” which is excusable because she’s charismatic enough to carry the movie and plenty skilled at delivering snappy, sarcastic dialogue. Stone occasionally flashes her green eyes or performs a sassy, slow-motion strut, but it’s her brainy attitude that makes Olive a consistently entertaining presence.
Gluck’s casual style masks a healthy derision of its “teen sex comedy” sub-genre, referencing counter-cliche classics like Can’t Buy Me Love and those of the late, great John Hughes, while mostly skirting the banalities of an over-sexed group. Hormone-addled characters still exist, of course, but not as a means for raunchy humor — no one is humping a pie — so much as caricatures of walking libidos or emphatically chaste Christians like Amanda Bynes‘ Marianne.
Underneath all the faux promiscuity is a valuable message that popularity is fleeting and sexuality is a complicated choice. Luckily Easy A is PG-13 because it deserves to be appreciated by a younger-skewing crowd, like Mean Girls or other Hughesian hits.
3.5 out of 5.