Apart from slasher films and romantic comedies, high school flicks might just have the worst hit-to-miss ratio of any genre. For every gem, there is at least a dozen atrociously unoriginal, abysmal films to go with it. So if you’ve heard of “Easy A,” one would not blame you for being conflicted. Yet you can be rest assured, “Easy A” is the smartest teen comedy since Juno and will most definitely join the ranks of “The Breakfast Club” and “Mean Girls” as a teen movie classic. With acerbic dialogue infused with pop culture references (covering everything from Gossip Girl to The Brady Bunch), a charismatic lead and an exceptionally strong supporting cast, “Easy A” has its bases covered.
Set in the small town of Ojai, California, “Easy A” tells the story of how an anonymous high schooler, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), destroys her flawless reputation and gains notoriety for being the school slut without ever having lost her virginity. It begins innocently enough, with Olive telling a small lie about having a date on the weekend to get out of spending some time with her best friend’s creepy family. Yet when the weekend comes to a close and her best friend Rhiannon demands details on the supposed date, Olive is guarded, leading Rhiannon to falsely deduce that Olive has lost her virginity — a conclusion that instead of denying, Olive supports. However, thanks to the high school gossip mill, Olive’s well-intentioned lie begins to spiral out of control, garnering her quite the promiscuous reputation among her peers. Oddly enough, Olive relishes her newfound infamy and eventually turns her fake sexual encounters into a business model helping other outcasts gain acceptance by pretending to have sex with them (for a small fee, of course). Despite Olive’s intentions being pure, her reputation catches the attention of a Christian student group which begins to rally for her expulsion. Finally realizing the consequences of her lies, Olive sets out to regain her “innocence” in the minds of her peers.
Not enough positive things can be said about Emma Stone’s performance in this film. Many critics have likened her performance to that of Lindsay Lohan’s in “Mean Girls” but this comparison really does not do Stone justice. As teenage outcast Olive Penderghast, she is able to evoke a sincerity that is rarely seen in films of this nature. Stone brings so much energy to the role that it’s nearly impossible not to be smitten by her.
The supporting cast is also exceptionally strong across the board. Dan Byrd (TV’s “Cougar Town”) is utterly charming as Brandon, a gay teen who is the first to solicit Olive’s help. As Olive’s parents, Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Patricia Clarkson (“Cairo Time”) are a refreshing departure from the usual stereotypes that so often plague the parents in these types of films. Even Aly Michalka, almost unbearable on The CW’s “Hellcats,” turns in a respectable performance as Olive’s best friend Rhiannon.
In a role similar to that of Mandy Moore’s Hilary Faye from the underrated “Saved!,” Amanda Bynes plays Marianne, the devout leader of the school’s Christian fellowship. Make no mistake though, Bynes is no Moore. While Bynes is undoubtedly funny as the over-the-top Marianne, she is unable to transform the character into anything more than a caricature we’ve seen many times before. This lacklustre characterization is perhaps more the fault of Royal’s tight script, but it’s undoubtedly one of the film’s few missteps.
As it stands, “Easy A” is one of the most innovative teen comedies of the past decade and one of the most enjoyable films of the year.