Sunday, September 19, 2010

Easy A earns its A easily

Cheesy post title. I know. I couldn't help myself.

Know who's delightful in this movie? The entire cast. Seriously. And it is a cast of awesome, from Emma Stone as Olive to Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as her parents to Dan Byrd as Brandon to Penn Badgley as the stable-yet-swoonworthy Todd (even though he seems too old to be in high school) to Thomas Haden Church as an awesome teacher and Lisa Kudrow as his awesomely awful (guidance counselor) wife. Amanda Bynes was obnoxious (a compliment - she was meant to be), Cam Gigandet was laughable (ditto), and Malcolm McDowell was rigidly out of touch (again, ditto).

The premise of Easy A is that good-girl Olive spins a story to impress her best friend, thus earning a reputation as a slut when it is overheard and spread before she can take it back. She knowingly and purposefully cements that reputation in order to help her friend Brandon escape daily torment because people think (rightly) that he is gay. The scene in which she and Brandon fake having sex (not a spoiler - it's in all the ads) is completely hilarious, and unless you've already seen the film, you have not seen or heard the funniest parts of that particular transaction.

The homage to the work of John Hughes was wonderful - and occurred on two levels. In many ways, this film is similar to a John Hughes movie, at the same time as Olive, the main character, pays direct tribute to Hughes's films, while metafictionally wishing her real life were more like a Hughes film. So. Great.

Even moreso than Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, this is a film for all writers and fans of YA literature. It is smart and funny and while there are some premises that strain credulity a bit - the behaviors of the principal and guidance counselor, for instance, and the huge amount of power weilded by an exceptionally small group of moralistic teens - Olive manages to feel very real. Emma Stone is warm and witty and spunky, as well as being a truly kind, caring character.

On top of the excellent storyline of the movie, the movie is full of excellent literary references, from the direct (Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and boy did I love how that reference worked out, and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne) to the indirect - including the nod to Forever and other books by the wonderful Judy Blume, which you can see in the trailer, and the reference you see below, which is a nod to The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot, an existential poem if ever there was one.


               T.S. Eliot allusion for the win!

For those of you not familiar with Eliot's poem, it deals with a couple key themes, including life in difficult times (he wrote it while living in Europe after World War I), possible marital infidelity, the passing of judgment (in the poem, judgment is passed on new souls by the inhabitants in the kingdoms of death), and questions involving religion, including a sort of condemnation on the worship of false gods (or the false worship of real gods). And yes - all those themes are in this really funny movie as well. I told you it was smart. The Hollow Men concludes with this (much-quoted) stanza, which is both a reference to the Gunpowder Plot involving Guy Fawkes and a fatalistic prediction for the future, which manages at the same time to echo "Here we go 'round the Mulberry Bush":

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
This movie does indeed go out with a bang, not a fizzle, and the ending is satisfying and endearing and sweet. The movie is probably going to be a (well-deserved) star-maker for Emma Stone. And this film is on the "will-see-again" and "must-buy" lists already here at our house. M has decreed it to be so, and I agree with her 100%. Because there are layers and levels to this movie, whether you like its Hughes-homage angle or its literary references angle or the fabulous chemistry between every single one of the significant characters in this film.

My recommendation? See it early and often.

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