Welcome to the Emma Stone show! While the recent hype may be on her snagging the Gwen Stacey role in Marc Webb's Spiderman reboot, and how she's actually a natural blonde rather than the brunette we've always known her to be on screen, perhaps it's time for us to back up a little and see her carry off a movie on her lithe shoulders. Where Alicia Silverstone once did with Clueless and Ellen Page with Juno, Easy A has Emma Stone written all over it, and it came off just fine after supporting roles (that I've seen) in The House Bunny, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Zombieland.
Here she fits like hand in glove as Olive, one of the many unknowns in her high school, who is neither brainy nor nerdy nor pretty enough to be noticed, going about her own business with nary anyone giving two hoots about, except perhaps for best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka from Bandslam). One thing she learns though is how rumours get spread around like wildfire, and having seen the effects of how her little lie about a weekend one night stand, get to make its ugly rounds around campus. Soon she helps a gay acquaintance who's not ready to get out of the closet yet by pretending to have an orgasmic session during a party, and the rest, as they say, is history as she gains notoriety, and overnight becomes THE girl in school, and a go-to person for the down and the trodden to seek help with affirming their studly status, for a price of course.
So what price that of a simple, harmless lie, if only to assist others in need to find their self-worth and self-esteem back amongst their peers, even at the expense of being labelled as a skank or a whore? The story grapples with this dilemma in a comical fashion, but when you think about it, is one's reputation easily traded for money and gifts, or is it something to be protected against baseless accusations, or what if one is responsible for purporting these rumours in the first place for acting the part, like what Olive does with her wardrobe and attitude transformation, especially when one is basking in the limelight and the grabbing all the attention, than to be ignored and unnoticed. And who says what will happen if you repeat a lie enough times so much so that they become the "truth"?
The main driver that made this movie the fun romp it is, is the rapid fire wordplay in the dialogues. It's just been too long that a film came by to provide that witty, and cheeky even, conversational pieces between characters, and Stone, together with her parents played by Stanely Tucci and Patricia Clarkson who chew up all the limited scenes they're in with their charisma, provide plenty of that in their dysfunctional family of sorts, though I must admit it's a pretty novel, risky and unconventional way to bring up the kids, but if the rapport is as what's seen in the film, I'd say why not.
Director Will Gluck also crafted the film in a unique fashion, with multiple narrative ideas running, each introducing a different dilemma for our heroine, splitting them up into logical chapters before wrapping everything up neatly, and I mean that in a nice way, and not the convenient cop out, though one can always fall back on the inevitable cliche especially on the romantic subplot where it dwells on not realizing that true love has always been there waiting from the start. And not to forget with most chick flicks, the relationships with the best friend forever type, and the archetypical enemy who just cannot stand the sight of the other.
Bert V. Royal's story also seemed to have an axe to grind with the hypocritical religious zealots, and while they play out for most of the laugh out loud comedic moments in the film (as we identify their traits amongst some folks all of us definitely have our brushes with), you can't help but feel that some may feel slighted by the portrayal, or even that of a particular group who get passed off as cheap misers in the film. I think comedies probably have a leeway where on one hand pokes fun, but on the other raises some serious thoughts about what's actually happening right under our nostrils. And not to forget his homage to the 80s romantic comedies that will hit a nostalgic spot for film fans who grew up in that era.
Supporting Emma Stone is a slate of recognizable stars who make the most and best use of their limited screen time. Leading the charge is Thomas Haden Church as Olive's favourite teacher in school, who stays fairly non-judgemental and thinks Olive's rebellious ways is but a phase to outgrow. Lisa Kudrow plays his wife and councillor in the school who has a dirty secret that her mister is unaware of, and though introduced late in the film, is quite instrumental in providing that catalyst for a conclusion. Kudrow still hasn't lost her comedic timing yet. Malcolm McDowell shows up as the no nonsense principal of the public school, and his sarcasm is quite top notch.
But Easy A also demonstrates the fickleness of the Hollywood starlet system, and how you're popular one day, and quite forgotten the next. We haven't seen Amanda Bynes for quite a while, and she stars here not as the protagonist as one may think she would, but as the antagonistic fiend of Olive's who is quite misguided in her faith, hypocritical in thinking she can, heaven willing, change Olive and smack her back on the right path of righteousness. However, as all sinners can attest to, her mouth is also quick to hurl insults. Not a favourite character of mine, and definitely very negative, but hey, kudos to Bynes for taking up a character against type and trying to expand the range of roles she can handle. Ana quite well at that too.
For the excellent casting, story with nuggets of pop culture, an excellent soundtrack and dialogues that are music to the ears, this is one chick flick that I enjoyed enough to shortlist into my favourites for this year. Highly recommended stuff, even if you're a guy and wondering whether such chicks do exist to lend a hand or two. For a price of course. Highly recommended! And I'm not telling you a lie!