Written by: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson
Rumors can do so much damage even with the limited amount of truth they may contain. In the end, it does not matter because once it’s out, rarely can it be put back in. High school becomes a fertile ground with plenty of envy roaming through the halls along with hormones and sensitivity at an all-time high. Easy A demonstrates just how quickly things can spread and how the most innocent acts can be misconstrued as abhorrent behavior.
Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) goes through high school going unnoticed until she tells a white lie about hooking up with a college-aged person. Suddenly everyone has an interest in her sex life, which she uses to her advantage as people pay her to say they had sex. As she gets compensated through gift cards, the guys raise their social clout.
Certainly taking its inspiration from “The Scarlet Letter” as referenced in the story, Easy A delivers a strong combination of social commentary on gender norms and a hilarious experience to hang out with Olive Penderghast. She has always put the needs of others over her own as shown at the very beginning with her covering for her crush in a game of seven minutes in heaven. From then on, she has always managed to care for others before herself and it continues in this film where she cares more for helping other guys with their social and sexual insecurity rather than the reputation she begins to accrue.
The first white lie she tells to appease her friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) ends up with everyone learning about this sexual experience she didn’t really have. By the way the other classmates react, you would think they were all virgins, as any sort of sex seemingly gets frowned upon. Heck, sex got more openly talked about in my Catholic high school growing up as compared to this supposed progressive public California school. This frowning and eyebrow furrowing comes with a purpose, of course, as it displays the social differences between a guy and a girl having sex at this time. This gets explicitly exemplified when Olive does her first favor of pretending to have sex with her friend Brandon (Dan Byrd). He struggles with getting mercilessly bullied for being gay and having the reputation of having had sex with Olive would change so much. After the two embellish with their noises for everyone to hear at a party, Bradon comes out first to cheers and applause by other guys. When Olive walks out afterward, she gets met with eyes of disgust. The point could not be made any clearer.
Easy A continually walks this balance as Olive decides to stick up her proverbial middle finger to all of these harmful individuals and decides to dress provocatively along with sewing a big red “A” on all of her garments in reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s previously mentioned novel. At this moment, Olive decides to be the very thing people keep accusing her of being now to her own benefit. It serves as an empowering sequence but it also highlights the extreme likability of Olive as a character. Teenage characters in these sorts of movies tend to get a bit tiring with their melodrama and dumb decisionmaking but Olive never falls into those trappings. Instead, she retains her wit and smarts throughout while still displaying plenty of emotion as would be expected when a large segment of the population believes her to be a slut.
Certainly a testament to the screenplay but also the sensational performance by Emma Stone. She has consistently put in excellent work in whatever project she signs onto and her work as Olive may be one of her best as she fully carries this film from beginning to end. Other side characters certainly contribute with their own bits of comedy, but Stone needed to bring it 100% of the time she appeared on-screen. She always found the wonderfully charming aspects of this character and accentuated them to highlight why this situation continually proves to be unfair to her with not much more she can do to stop it.
Even with Stone owning this film from beginning to end, the supporting cast still had some wonderful moments. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci play possibly the greatest mother-father parenting duo of any teen comedy in the warm and loving presence of their household. They create so much fun chemistry with Stone in the way they prove to be easy-going parents but ones that truly care for their daughter. Amanda Bynes as the judgy and hypocritical Christian girl plays beautifully into the archetype where she engages in plenty of gossip while also trying to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Others like Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow also delivered standout moments serving as a star-studded supporting cast for the lead.
When going down the list of the most beloved teen comedies of the 21st century, Easy A rarely gets a shout when it really should. It has a healthy conversation about sex, gender norms, and the harmful impacts of spreading rumors. It all gets anchored by a fun screenplay and a truly great performance by the ever-impressive Emma Stone. A truly engaging experience all the way through and one that can be shown to people of all ages because the lesson of gossip never seems to get learned.