Remember when Superbad was released and everyone was freaking out about what a great teen film it was? Did you wonder why the story didn't include the ways girls break the rules in high school? I did. But the film did have a minor yet interesting female role, Jules, who was made memorable by the candid humor of newcomer Emma Stone. In Easy A, Stone effortlessly tackles her first starring role, and presents a realistic story of teenage identity, friendship, and the challenges of self-discovery.
Olive is a smart and funny, albeit socially invisible, high school student. After being badgered for details about her weekend by her potty-mouthed best friend, Olive lies about losing her virginity to an imaginary guy. One lie leads to another and soon Olive is supposedly sleeping with half the school—mostly misfits and outcasts excluded for being gay, fat, or anything else that doesn’t align with the heteronormative high school experience. Emboldened by her reputation, Olive embraces martyrdom and actively plays into the role she’s inherited. She hypersexualizes her wardrobe and stitches a scarlet letter “A” to her chest. However, while the reputations of the fellas she claims to have provided favors to blossom from the fruits of imaginary intercourse, Olive’s life becomes more complicated and lonely.
Eschewing just enough raunch to earn a PG-13 rating, first-time screenwriter Burt V. Royal’s script subtly navigates the tenuous relationship between reputation and reality, while attempting to leave its protagonist with agency. One brief yet poignant scene calls into question teen dating violence, male privilege, and the commodification of the female body. The painful relevance of these moments is cushioned by the accessibility of the dialogue and Stone’s fearless goofiness.
Director Will Gluck could have easily relied on his leading lady’s searing wit and deadpan delivery to carry the film; instead, he enabled Stone's performance with a dynamic supporting cast of positive, if flawed, role models. As Olive’s trusting yet concerned parents, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci offer consistent comic relief, and Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow make welcome returns to the big screen as faculty members battling their own deviant behavior.
Stone is also equally matched by her peers. Amanda Bynes’ ironically pious villain is a refreshing turn away from the predictable good girls of her past, and Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley is an adorable reminder of the exciting innocence of first love.
The bottom line is you either like teen movies or you don’t. If you’re like me, or my friend Sabrina who sat next to me squealing every time John Hughes was referenced, you grew up with the teen classics of the eighties and spent your twenties believing that quirky outcasts, like Pretty in Pink’s Andie, transcend high school politics, and Mr. Right is a unique hybrid of Lloyd Dobbler, John Bender, and Happy Harry Hard-On. With Olive, Gluck and Royal have given a new generation of female viewers a different kind of teen fantasy: the girl they want to become instead of the boy they want to date. This makes Easy A a teen film representative of its time.