Easy A (Will Gluck, 2010)

06Jan12

Emma Stone (Olive), Patricia Clarkson (Rosemary). Screenplay by Bert V. Royal. Directed by Will Gluck. Rating: 15. Running time: 92 minutes.

So I took a gamble and I got punished for it. This is a mess, and a mushy one at that. There’s a dash of decent comedy – a dash being a single scene – but otherwise Easy A is a desperate attempt to imitate a Reitman rom-com drama that just never manages to be that cool. I know it wants to be Junobecause of the extravagant (or is the word ‘hip’?) camerawork put in occasionally without consequence, and the slightly oddball soundtrack, but unfortunately after recently seeing a surprising number of films from this genre, I can spot other trends it happily tries to imitate, and I assure you that with familiarity does not come palatability.

The premise of the drama here is that evolving from being a girl to being a woman gets you a lot of attention, and that ascent is most quickly made by pretending you’ve had sex. But soon our free-spirited protagonist, Olive, starts to find the gap between her public image and reality – the local bike, the closet virgin – too much to live with, and so her deception – shock horror – leads to strife just in time for the big set up of a contrived resolution in the film’s finale.

The film goes wrong in many places. The wordplay is as absent as the (faked) foreplay, and the focus on Christian reactions to Olive’s promiscuity falls flat on its face (but then maybe kids in American schools can’t sleep with one another without a religious nuthead informing them they will go to hell. I wouldn’t know, but I guess if it’s true I’m happy to relabel these scenes as healthy satire). None of this matters, though, in comparison to the ending. The film gets increasingly typical and unbearably obvious as time goes on, and eventually the attempts to be uplifting and moralising are best described as sickly. It’s just silly to try to carve a life-lesson out of a farfetched but fun situation only hypothesised for the sake of a film. Do girls really agree to pretend to have banged gay guys and fat guys out of an ambiguous combination of Samaritan sentiments, desire for cash and the feeling that it would be funny? The attempt to slowly condemn her efforts here, rather than just playing along with their humour, would have you think so.

We’ve also got the trademark staple of the quirky parents. Submarine had it, Friends with Benefits did too. In fact, Patricia Clarkson is the all-accepting casual mum here as she was in the latter (I see it’s also the same director; you wouldn’t know unless you were cynical or checked IMDb), but she’s still not funny. And what’s with the flashbacks to old movies? 500 Days did The Graduate, and Easy A does its fair share of indie namedropping to once again try to convince us it is original rather than the rehashed trash that it is.

The only source of redemption is, of course, Stone. I thought she was fun in Crazy Stupid Love. She was the only one that came close to matching Gosling’s mastering of the comedy, and she’s even grander here. But it’s not enough. I have to insist that you don’t bother.

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