Well, I guess we now know what would happen if Diablo Cody took a Tony Montana-sized bump of coke, went on a weeklong VH1’s I Love The …s bender and then sat down and wrote a screenplay. Yup, she’d write Easy A.
For sure, Easy A is Juno 2.0 — a smart, gimmicky high school romp with a charismatic, too-smart-for-her-own-good female lead and enough pop culture references to make Bill Simmons’ head spin. Only, it pushes the envelope farther than Juno ever dared. This isn’t a world of silly catchphrases (“Honest to blog,” anyone?) and unexpected teenage pregnancy. It’s a world where a teenage girl has the presence of mind to call someone “Kinsey-six gay” and pretends to prostitute herself in order to become a social pariah.
That isn’t to say that Easy A is bad. It’s not. It’s brilliant. But let’s pause for a moment. I’ve arrived at the point where I describe the premise.
Emma Stone is Olive Penderghast, an intelligent, all-but-ignored girl attending East Ojai High School. After a fictional story leaks about her having lost her virginity to a college boy, she becomes noticed for the first time. Sure, she’s a pariah (since when does having sex in high school make you a pariah?), but Olive likes the attention and embraces it.
Quickly, she learns that there is almost as much a demand for fictional sex as real sex, as male after male approaches her, willing to exchange gift cards (go with it) for the right to say they had sex with her.
Unfortunately for Olive, East Ojai High’s morals are still stuck in the 1950s, and being the school skank is a bad thing. Thrust into to public eye, she becomes an even bigger outcast than she originally was as the school’s right-wing religious group, led by Marianne (played by a delightfully evil Amanda Bynes), persecutes her Scarlet Letter style.
As absurd as the plot is, the plot isn’t the point. Stone is the point. She makes the film and is a delight to watch. She’s pretty. She’s funny. She’s glib. And she’s vulnerable. She’s the high schooler we all wanted to be but couldn’t, and you can’t help but fall in love with Olive — at least just a little bit.
It’s always interesting to see a star break out for the first time. It seems to be sudden and spectacular — seemingly out of nowhere. Of course it isn’t, but that’s how it appears to us. Stone is different. We know her. She’s been dancing around this role for years. Superbad. Zombieland. Beneath our very noses she’s been developing this glib, sassy, yet oh-so-frank Juno-like character who we always assumed would be trapped in the background.
To be honest, I never thought she’d actually do it. I remember seeing The House Bunny (don’t ask why) and walking away thinking that she had no shot to be a lead. She was too demure, fading next to the dim comedic light that is Anna Ferris. Not a good sign.
In Easy A, however, she steps up and does one of the hardest things for a comedic actor to do — carry a film while allowing others to shine. Too often we see comedies dominated by big-name stars whose noise drowns out the rest of the cast. Not here. Stone knows when to step up and take over (she saves the third act) and when to let others shine.
It’s a good thing too. The rest of the cast is brilliant, especially Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s parents. Put them in the pantheon of awesome high school parents. They’re wise. They’re funny. They’re what I’d call “mentally eclectic.” Trust me — see the film, and you’ll understand.
Easy A is the kind of film that I’m sure other critics will describe as smart and sassy, but for me it’s not. It’s certainly sassy, but that’s no great feat. And the plot is too ridiculous for me to take seriously. Easy A is remarkable because it gives us the all-too-rare opportunity to see an actress spread her wings and fly. Stone will be a star. Make no mistake about that.
Sam Colen is a junior majoring in economics/mathematics. His column, “O’ Lucky Critic,” runs Fridays.