CATEGORIES Comedy, Theatrical Reviews, Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Reviews, Cinematical
I've got a terminological inexactitude for you; comedies with male leads are better than those with female leads. There's a rumor that Easy A completely extinguishes. Forget the buddy comedies, nerdy boys' quests for love or manly slapstick; it's time for some youthful female hilarity. Watch out boys because Emma Stone is in charge here and she doesn't need dirty jokes, farces or a cliché shtick to get the job done; she's just a natural.
Olive Penderghast (Stone) is your standard nobody. She's top-notch in the eyes of her family and English teacher, but amongst her peers, she's easily forgettable. That all changes when her gossip-loving pal Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) probes for details about Olive's weekend. Rhi is desperate for juicy news and considering Olive's got none, she opts to get creative and make some up. What starts as a harmless lie turns into the hottest story in the halls and ultimately results in Olive being labeled as the class slut. Of course nobody wants to be known as the local whore, but it's better than being nonexistent, right? Olive thinks so and not only opts to not deny the rumors, but stir up a few more.
Brandon (Dan Byrd) isn't the most popular guy in school, but Olive can change that. Now that her image is tarnished, why not rub a little more dirt on it for Brandon's sake? The two have fake sex at a party during which everyone from school listens in. Brandon emerges a hero and Olive emerges open for business. Now, not only is she a slut, but a loser magnet. Helpless guys beg her for a similar service in exchange for gift cards, coupons and anything else they can afford to fork over. That's when she takes a cue from The Scarlett Letter's Hester Prim, embraces her new reputation and embroiders a red "A" on her clothing.
Think we need more female driven comedies? If there could be more movies like Easy A, definitely!
Steve Carell and Will Ferrell have nothing on Emma Stone. Stone takes Olive from average girl to school slut to guilty party and back again with ease. Whether it's her desperation for attention or disappointment in herself for wanting it that bad, everything Olive does feels so genuine, it's natural to go along with it. What takes Stone's performance above and beyond is her funny side. She's downright hilarious. There are quite a few moments in Easy A that'll keep you laughing long after the scene ends and most of those are thanks to Stone.
Some of the folks in this film are lucky to have such a natural comedian alongside them on screen, particularly Michalka and Amanda Bynes. There's nothing terribly wrong with Michalka's performance; her character just isn't that funny and is always trying far too hard to garner a laugh. Bynes, who plays Stone's nemesis, the leader of a campus Christian do-gooder club that abhors Olive's scandalous behavior, finds herself in a somewhat similar situation. First off, she's basically just Mandy Moore in Saved!, but doesn't pull it off quite as well. Secondly, she's completely outshined by Stone and that likely has something to do with this last point: Bynes almost seems as though she just doesn't want to be there. Her character is often seen scowling in Olive's direction, but beneath that scowl isn't anger, it's boredom and lack of enthusiasm.
But those are only two minor lulls in a film that's otherwise a blast through and through. Penn Badgley makes for a fine love interest for Olive, but the most amusing guy in her life is certainly Byrd. Like Stone, he's got impressive comedic timing and when paired together, they're endlessly charming and amusing. The same goes for Mr. and Mrs. Penderghast played hilariously by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. By the end of the film you'll be wishing your parents were as cool and accepting as this pea-decoding duo. Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow get a little lost in the sea of supporting characters and their storyline fizzles out abruptly, but both manage to make a minor impact.
Director Will Gluck is a natural when it comes to teen comedies. While it's impossible to ignore Fired Up's flaws, the film certainly has an excellent atmosphere for crude adolescent humor. Here, Gluck takes a major step up and almost gets it entirely right with Easy A. Minus a distracting John Hughes tribute, a misplaced karaoke routine and a few storyline deficiencies, Easy A is a grade A comedy and one certainly worthy of multiple viewings. The pacing is impeccable, soundtrack wildly appropriate and upbeat and the dialogue snappy and packed with inventive humor. The film could have used an extra 15 minutes and, if anything, that should be taken as a compliment as I didn't want Easy A to end.