Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material, 90 minutes
Lovely, sardonic Stone the best thing about the pleasant but uneven "Easy A"
It's hard to believe that actress Emma Stone made her feature film debut just three years ago in the comedy "Superbad" and now she's headlining her own teen rom-com. Her first-rate sardonic wit and comic timing are rare for an actress her age, but this all on full display in the witty "Easy A," an energetic, playful contemporary teen take on "The Scarlett Letter." A talented cast and some engaging moments lift it past its predictable, uneven storytelling and an affinity to overwhelm with unnecessary characters.
Clean-cut high-schooler Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is overheard insinuating that she lost her virginity over the weekend. A very strict Christian classmate, Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears and spreads the rumor. Olive later agrees to pretend that she lost her virginity to her gay friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd). Several boys learn what she has done and beg her to perform the same service for them, hoping to gain some of her newfound fame and popularity. Olive's life begins to resemble that of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." Olive then decides to use the rumor mill to her own advantage, affixing a red A to her clothing to make some new friends and become the school's new heroine.
Part-teen comedy, part-social message and good tongue-in-cheek fun, the pleasant "Easy A" does plenty of extra credit to ensure you like it, and most of it you will. It starts out well with an engaging premise, sags a little in the later-going, to recover with a semi-cool ending that references some '80s teen comedies, namely John Hughes.
'Easy A" has way, way too many characters to keep track of, and some fall by the wayside or totally disappear all together by the end of the film. And the film's semi-annoying way of telling the story (really, are cue cards that necessary to the story?) might be a little off-putting. But the film is all but held together by the caustic but lovely Stone, who isn't afraid to slap on that red "A" and prance around showing her goods and demanding gift cards for her services.
"Easy A" also has a few good decent actors thrown in the mix, especially Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, who make for the perfect set of offbeat parents for their offbeat daughter. Others are a mixed bag. You'd think that Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow would make for a good pairing as a couple with marital problems, but they don't fit into the story well, and Malcolm McDowell is wasted in a brief, one-note role as the school principal.
Amanda Bynes hams it up believably as a hellish, snotty Christian that may remind you of some people you know. "Gossip Girl's" Penn Badgely is suitably and blandly handsome as Stone's love interest, though this is clearly Stone's film, while Dan Byrd, as the resident gay student, starts out the movie front and center and literally disappears midway through the film. Ditto for the lovely Alyson Michalka as Stone's best friend in the film, who is hardly seen later in the film.
Even with it's flaws, there's more to like about the pleasantly, offbeat "Easy A" than not, and you'll clearly remember Stone, if nothing else. And it does have a nicely updated albeit grungier version of the '80s "Breakfast Club" theme from Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)," which may certainly bring back memories for some the parents. "Easy A" will be most enjoyed by the young audience it's targeting and give them something worthwhile to do this weekend.