Friday, September 17, 2010

Movie Review: Easy A

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Ever play the game Telephone or Gossip back in grade school? You remember...when everyone lines up, then the first person whispers something into the second person's ear, the second repeats to the third and so on until finally the last person repeats out loud what they heard at their end of the line. You compare the first to the last and see how it morphs. In Easy A, Olive (Emma Stone) tells a white lie to her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka of Disney channel's Aly and AJ and now the CW's Hellcat fame) to avoid having to spend awkward time with Rhiannon's family. The lie morphs and changes form but instead of battling it, Olive decides to play it up. In the end it causes her more problems than the original lie solved.

John Hughes would have been proud of this teen age high school social standing movie. The movie even pokes fun of and pays homage to John Hughes and 80's teenager movies like The Breakfast Club, Can't Buy Me Love and Say Anything. Olive is trying to navigate the murky waters of high school and come out successfully on the other side. To avoid telling her BFF the truth why she didn't spend the weekend with her BFF's family, she makes up that she spent the weekend with a college guy named George. Because Olive is not forthcoming with details of how the weekend went, Rhiannon jumps to the conclusion that Olive had sex with George. Olive doesn't deny the accusation and so the rumor mill starts turning. With teens connected via cell phones, text messaging and Facebook, the misinformation moved through the grape vine in less time than it takes for a light to turn green and a New York driver's car horn sounds to tell the driver at the front of line to MOVE IT!

The lie gets further compounded during a detention session. She hears tales from Brandon (Dan Byrd) about the bullying he's receiving for being gay and she tells him about what caused her penalty while revealing the truth about her situation. She's starting to like the attention where she had previously known anonymity. He asks her to have fake sex with him so that people wouldn't think he's gay and therefore leave him alone. She reluctantly agrees which because of such a convincing act her and Brandon put on of their tryst triggers the rumor mill to kick into overdrive. Just so happens in literature class they are studying Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Olive uses this to her "advantage".

From there Olive is open for business to improve other guys reputations while her own reputation is going down the tubes. Guys line up with gift cards to a number of big box retailers to pay for her services which brings the scandal to a whole new level. The rumors affect her home life, her school time and relationships with BFF Rhiannon and school mascot Woodchuck Todd. Eventually like any boil that's been festering it comes to a head and pops with painful results.

The ensemble cast works very well together. Stanley Tucchi and Patricia Clarkson are hysterical as the caring, sensitive, understanding and yet somewhat clueless parents. Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow play a married couple who work at the same high school with just enough seriousness and comedy as to not make their positions caricatures. Amanda Bynes had the right amount of self righteousness as the leader of the local christian chastity club that you were looking for the skeletons in her closet and the purity ring on her hand at the same time.

The two things that didn't work for me were the ages and the dates within the storyline. While appearing youthful, I couldn't quite buy that they were high school students in Ojai, California. I'm sorry, every time I hear the city name I now think of and the LOL cat speak! With the showing of oranges ready to pick, basket ball pep rallies and a mention that the date was April, elements for the time line didn't fall into place the way it should have for the storyline to flow evenly. I got slightly distracted by those factors.

The technical elements of the movie made for an captivating watch. Whoever did the opening titles and the closing credits were clearly influenced by watching Fox's show Fringe. They were set into the scene like a prop and as you got closer they got bigger or rotated as you moved around them. The inter cutting of various movies including the aforementioned films and the original The Scarlet Letter demonstrate points made by Olive during the film. The varied soundtrack songs were enjoyable including the running gag with one particular song. Nordhoff High School in Ojai stood in as Ojai North High School giving the believability factor an extra boost in the arm that a set couldn't do.

The clear star of the movie is Emma Stone. She plays Olive as a smart, thinking, funny, young adult with a hint of vulnerability that draws you into appreciate the character. Not only was she the main character, but pulled double duty as the narrator of her own mini documentary talking to her webcam. The level of sarcasm in her responses were as Hawaii's Aunty Marialani would say, not too sweet, not too rancid, but juuuuuuussss right. There were many time I found myself laughing out loud to the dialog and situations presented and the self awareness of Olive. The 93 minutes passed quickly. With talk of sex and virginity, the movie had a PG-13 rating that covered mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material.

While the movie I don't think was an easy A due to those few discrepancies already noted, the movie for me was an easy A-! Director Will Gluck and writer Bert Royal would probably get a thumbs up atta boy from John Hughes if he was still alive today. While there is no easter egg, the credits take a different tact and are worthy of a gander!

The Movie Monkey

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