Saturday, January 22

Easy A

Let's Not and Say We Did.

'Easy A' is an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter' - the story of Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), a regular, slightly less than popular high-school student who finds her reputation changed overnight thanks to the school rumour mill. Olive, however, chooses to use her new reputation to her advantage in order to improve her popularity.

"Ironically we were studying The Scarlet Letter. Now isn't that always the way? The books you read in class always have some strong connection with whatever angsty, adolescent drama is going on"

I mentioned how much I wanted to see this film back in June - I'm a bit of a teen film fiend and I genuinely don't think they've made a decent, mainstream teen/high school film (at least marketed to girls/with a female lead) since Mean Girls, and that came out in 2004! I could not wait to watch it - keeping my fingers crossed that I was going to love it, and I kinda did!

Somehow all the teen films that have come out recently (High School Musical, Twilight etc) try so hard not to make sex the issue that it almost becomes the most prominent one. Whereas before I think teen films were just about high-school, how sometimes it's hell on earth, sometimes it's the most fun you ever had and how it was ok to think about sex, and if you weren't that was ok too. That's what I loved about Easy A, technically it's all about sex, but it also sort of isn't.

The minute information was released on the development of this film comparisons began being made to iconic teen films like Heathers, Clueless and Mean Girls - to become the teen film for this generation (hindsight suggests that maybe it hasn't had as huge an impact, but I suppose I don't really know as I'm not a teen, and haven't been for a while). As with those films before Easy A is very much of the time - Heathers had the lunchtime poll, Clueless had cell phones and pagers and Mean Girls with the three way calls. Whereas, Olive tells her story via podcast (and like all of those films it's our female protagonist telling us her side of the story).

I think everyone has had one of these situations at some point in their life and for most of us it was in high-school, granted it probably wasn't on this large a scale (although thinking of the speed the rumour mill ran at my school it seriously could be). Nevertheless, it's still that feeling of "I've exaggerated the truth slightly, now I have to either back-track or keep up pretenses to save face"  The lie becomes you, which sounds so like it's straight out of a teen film that it probably is (googling suggests it could just be my mind butchering Billie Jean lyrics) - you get so far and you build it up 'like Jenga' that you just keep on building the tower of lies and wait for it to fall apart at your feet. This is pretty much the basis of the story for 'Easy A' and what makes it so incredibly relatable (which I think is the most important thing in all good teen films) in the beginning Olive loves what the lie does for her - it makes people notice her and she's no longer just another invisible high school student - she's a 'somebody', but she soon begins to hate the lie and what it has made her. Like I mentioned before, I thought this was pretty accurate depiction of how incredibly fast anything vaguely scandalous travels when you're in high-school (anything to distract from double science, right?)  - you'd tell someone something in secret at the school gates at the end of the day and thanks to MSN messenger the next day every single person in the school knows your secret (we weren't allowed mobile phones at school then) - people in other years you don't know, teachers, dinnerladies, everyone. Case in point; I had a crush on a boy in my class when I was in year 5 (9-10 years), I told my best-friend about it whilst on a school trip (Jorvik for those interested) and the next day everybody knew, everybody. In hindsight, I know that everybody probably didn't know (or even care), but at that moment and the couple of days after it was the most humiliating thing ever and I felt that everyone was talking about it - hindsight also suggests that that girl wasn't my best friend either and in fact not a very nice person, but that's hindsight for you. Anyway I digress, back to my point - rumours travel at the speed of light, especially if they're about something sex related and even more-so if you're a girl. 

"The beauty of being a girl in high-school. People hear you have sex once and bam, you're a bimbo"

It's that 'double-edged sword' talked about in 'The Breakfast Club' that makes high-school even more completely delightful when you are in your senior years - the pressure. You talk about how you've done 'it' and you're a slut and if you talk about how you haven't, you're a prude.

On that note shall we have a look at one of the female characters? Amanda Bynes plays 'Jesus freak' Marianne Bryant. These kind of characters have become regulars in teen-films recently so I assume these sort of 'holier-than-thou' (literally) girls exist in reality or at least are quite common in America (I imagine them to be as misinformed and 'holier-than-thou' as Jordin Sparks at the MTV awards), therefore I don't have that much experience with mean girls like Marianne (or mean girls in general, to be honest). I do know however that Amanda Bynes plays her really well. Amanda normally plays the girl-next-door-almost-tomboy type girl in films (see; every film she's been in), but in this she is suitably bitchy, which I loved. I genuinely think that Amanda Bynes is a really good comedy actress, so it sort of saddened me to hear that she was quitting acting because it wasn't fun anymore, but I also sort of understand it too - they really don't create strong female characters in comedy films (I don't even think Judd Apatow creates good roles for his own wife), unless you're someone like Tina Fey and you write the role for yourself. I just hope Hollywood sorts this out for actresses like Emma Stone whose comedic timing is pretty incredible.

Olive's character is the sort of pretentious teen in the same vein as Juno (and Diablo Cody's other teens), but perhaps a little less self-aware and a lot more toned down. She's incredibly smart-arsed and witty, but also angsty and insecure enough for her to actually seem like the teens I knew (or was). I've rad a lot of people complaining about how they find it hard to believe Emma Stone as the sort of girl who'd be incredibly unpopular and 'invisible' in high-school, but I hate that argument. Just because she's gorgeous and seemingly lovely doesn't mean that high-school can't be hell for her, it doesn't make her experience less valid. But yes, Emma Stone is lovely, gorgeous and incredibly charming in this role (and every role I've seen her in) - she also runs incredibly well in heels.

Penn Badgely (of Gossip Girl Dan 'Judgy McJudgerson' Humphrey fame) stars as the obligatory lovely male lead and Olive's crush. Penn appears to be carving out a career as the nice guy (I'm not saying that's a bad thing Tom Hanks has done incredibly well out of it) and in 'Easy A' he is in fact nice, sweet and cute, which is well, nice. He plays this magical character that teen-films tells us exists in every high school - a super nice guy who respects you. Yeah, ok (or at least I never met them).

In terms of secondary characters there are Olive's parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. I loved them, but continuing in the 'yeah, right I wish' theme - parents like them do not exist except on screen (ie Lorelai Gilmore), they were far too funny and easy going to be parents of teenagers (or, y'know, real). Brandon played by Dan Byrd contributes to the second act which encourages the rumour mill, although after that he's not really in it much, but he gets some funny lines( the one thought I did have in regards to Dan was that I was shocked that he was still young enough to play a teen, as he played Hilary Duff's bff in A Cinderella Story). The only two characters that I didn't really feel brought anything to the film were Cam Gigandet and Lisa Kudrow's characters, (despite how much I love Lisa Kudrow) although their parts sort of brought the story to a close I just wasn't interested in them.

All in all, there were little things that irked me in the film, like the idea of a 16 year old (I'm assuming) girl wearing lingerie to school without something being said, where a load of teenage boys found $100+ for gift cards and the fact that someone would be threatened with expulsion for using the word 'twat' (pronounced wrong no less) in America. Aside from those points, however I loved Easy A, it looks back at (and at times mentions) a few of the films I loved so much as a teen which I felt really defined what I was going through, whilst very much feeling relevant for this generation. It felt real enough for me to relate to it, whilst being so incredibly exaggerated to hang on to the comedy factor (and the audience). I just hope that this will set a benchmark for Hollywood to continue making teen films like this, for this generation for which they can look back on and talk about how much they affected them like I did when I was a teen, only time will tell.

Easy A will be available on DVD from 28th February.


  1. Saw this for a 'girly cinema night' with my sister when it came out, and loved it - even though I'm 23, and I should be too old ;) Hehe x

  2. Aww, it's definitely the perfect girly night in film - you are never too old to watch a (good) teen film!


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