by KYW’s Bill Wine —
A vicious rumor about Olive cascades through the social network at her high school. But there’s no one for Olive to complain to because she’s the gossip girl who started the rumor about herself, although not intentionally.
That’s the premise of the snappy and sassy teen comedy, Easy A, a slyly satirical revenge fantasy about a school scandalized by one student’s alleged exploits.
Emma Stone (shown to advantage in Superbad, The Rocker, Zombieland), stars as anonymous but sharp-tongued motormouth Olive Penderghast, who made up the insinuating embellishment about her sexual behavior that traveled so quickly through the digital grapevine and got her branded as the princess of promiscuity at Ojai North High School in Southern California’s Ojai Valley.
The former wallflower tries to squelch the rumor that she has lost her virginity — her “V card” — but cannot. And, besides, given her newfound popularity, it seems to be doing her more good than harm. So she decides, instead of denying it, to show off and play up the newly notorious reputation she’s been branded with as if it’s true.
She decides to live her life as if as if she were either persecuted pariah Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or the heroine in a John Hughes movie, which is why we’re treated to clips from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, teen pics that Easy A aspires to capture and update.
Inspired by the Hawthorne novel, which Olive just happens to be reading in her English class, taught by the dynamic Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), she proudly wears a homemade scarlet letter to school and uses her new, infamous image to add a little street lustre to the personas of a couple of guys she befriends who sure could use the help.
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson come up aces as Olive’s open-minded parents, Lisa Kudrow the guidance counselor married to Mr. Griffith who could use a little guidance herself, and Amanda Bynes is Olive’s puritanical and judgmental best friend who meets with other self-righteous Christian students to try to figure out a way to convert Olive.
Director Will Gluck (Fired Up!) offers much of the footage and flashbacks as if from the perspective of Olive’s webcam confession — addressing the audience directly, à la Ferris Bueller — as he deals with social networking, peer pressuring, and cyberspace bullying. But although the sometimes chaotic screenplay by newcomer Bert V. Royal has its share of sharp one-liners, it doesn’t offer much in the way of follow-through, which is why the film seems to stop rather than end.
In the modern-teens mold of Mean Girls, Clueless, and Ten Things I Hate About You, Easy A is so stylized, so peppy, and so broad, it attracts our attention but then stumbles at retention.
Husky-voiced Stone, however, does anything but. In her first starring role, she sparkles and captivates, carrying the film in such an assured way, it would seem to assure that she’ll move to the head of the class — and, perhaps, the A-list, as Ellen Page did after Juno.
So we’ll start a rumor of 2½ stars out of 4 for an observant and fitfully funny PG-13 teen comedy about the cyberspace gossip mill. The provocative high school romp, Easy A, earns a grade that’s well short of that but that’s rumored to be respectable nonetheless.