This article was written exclusively for The Film Magazine by Martha Lane.
Easy A (2010)
Director: Will Gluck
Screenwriters: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes
Easy A, loosely based on “The Scarlet Letter” – an American literary classic which often does the rounds in popular culture as a means of discussing women’s place in society – tells the tale of Olive Penderghast (still a rising star, Emma Stone), a virgin high schooler who lies about having sex with a boy from community college then finds herself ‘selling’ similar lies for her classmates. While the boys who claim they’ve slept with her gain respect and confidence, Olive is left literally wearing a bright red letter A; ostracised and very much out of her depth.
From the second Easy A begins, it tries very hard to make sure the viewer doesn’t think they’re watching just another teen movie. And teen movies seem to be director Will Gluck’s thing. John Hughes references come thick and fast. Olive refers to films neither she nor half her audience would have been born to see the first time around. Olive is reminiscent of Juno, 10 Things I Hate About You’s Kat Stratford, and Booksmart’s Molly and Amy. She is a witty, whip smart, beautiful, adorable pinch of rage who knows that high school is just a gateway to bigger and better things. Supposedly 17 in Easy A, Stone went on to play essentially the same character in adult form, Hannah, in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Crazy, Stupid, Love just one year later.
There are many tropes that will leave you paddling in safe water – unmitigated levels of attractive people in their thirties playing teenagers; a love interest who’s both intense and sensitive; an evangelical Christian group with a guitar; a house party inexplicably held in a mansion; teachers dating students; supportive and hilarious parents. By acknowledging the steadfast rules of a teen comedy, Gluck is able to play around and bend some of the rules.
Olive is in charge of narration which allows for snappy lines and insight that dialogue would not have allowed for. Her declaration over webcam was a fitting comment on the rise of social media at the time, too. If it was released today, she’d have chosen TikTok.
The cast is great, the script fast paced enough to iron over the few weaknesses, and Malcolm McDowell as the grumpy headmaster is an inspired casting choice. Olive’s parents are Eugene Levy level funny, sympathetic, and easy going. All the best lines are gifted to Stanley Tucci, and he delivers with a glint in his eye. Nothing says loving father like a proud Tucci affirming that you could be ‘a stripper for governors or athletes’.
It’s certainly not a romantic comedy in the traditional sense. Olive isn’t driven by romance. A poignant scene in the canteen shows that she might actually want to date, but her inevitable boombox moment is a happy coincidence rather than her only purpose.
It has been ten years since Easy A was first released. Positively received by critics and audiences at the time, it has aged pretty well. So many popular teen films, including some of the John Hughes films Olive loves, don’t quite survive the watchful modern eye. If you can see past the 6-inch stilettos Olive is somehow allowed to wear to school, and the completely unbelievable notion that Emma Stone could be a ‘plain Jane’, then it is absolutely worth a watch.
Written by Martha Lane
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