Starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes
There’s a format to making a teen comedy. Take a teenage social outcast, put obstacles in the way of their quest for popularity and/or the significant other of their dreams, add one or two quirky friends and season with a soundtrack full of Top 40 hits. Sure, not every teen comedy fits the formula. But most do. When a movie sticks too close to the formula, you’re left with something bland and almost unwatchable. The modern trend, pioneered by movies such as American Pie, tends towards gross out humour and over the top sexualisation to try and stand out from the crowd.
But what if you did something different? What if you took the formula and added self awareness, witty dialogue and heart? Easy A takes this route and the result is an enjoyable 90 minutes sitting in a cinema.
Olive (Emma Stone) is a highschool nobody. She’s reputationless and on nobody’s radar. However, a small lie about having sex with a non-existent boyfriend soon becomes fuel for the school rumour mill. Suddenly, she has a reputation as a high class hooker. To those in the know, she’s accepting gifts from other social outcasts to pretend she’s had sex with them, therefore boosting both of their reps. Olive has gone from nobody to infamous and nobody’s getting hurt. Right?
Easy A is a lot of fun to watch. It takes that “cool but too awesome to be realistic” dialogue from movies like Juno and puts it to good use. Especially when it comes from Olive’s parents (played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci). The family interactions are so engaging that I could watch a 90 minute film of them having dinner together. Even better, I want to have dinner at their place every night. You just want to spend more time with them. It’s a sign of a good movie when you’re left wanting more.
The teen comedy has been a Hollywood staple for decades. A lot of this has been done before. Easy A is no exception. From the start, the film acknowledges its clichés and runs with them. You how it’s a cliché that whatever the kids are studying in class will have a direct impact on the plot? Guess what happens here. The difference is that the film draws attention to it. Olive’s narration literally says this is clichéd so let’s all laugh about it. This self awareness rescues many scenes, especially later in teh film where it takes the cornerstones of 80’s teen comedies and takes them for a spin. The message here is not to take things so seriously and just sit back and enjoy. And that’s what I did.
Easy A taps into the deep seated human desire to be significant. To have other people notice you and recognise your existence. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, no one wants to be isolated and ignored. Everybody is searching for a connection, something that says I belong. Olive would much rather have a reputation for being a bad girl than no reputation at all. One character, who desires Olive’s notoriety, makes the call “at least you’re being thought of.”
The saddest part of Easy A is that when Olive is at her lowest and looking for help, the Christians are no help at all. Amanda Bynes plays Marianne, the leader of the school’s Christian group. She is not someone I would hold up as an example of Christian love. She’s a jerk. She’s more interested in shunning Olive than pointing her to Christ. When she does try to convert Olive, it’s a superficial attempt with no effort made to build a relationship with God or to address Olive’s hurt, her need for belonging. Marianne needs a swift kick in the head and a lesson in Christian love.
Olive seeks acceptance through lies and misdirection. If only she’d been introduced to the truth. That God loves his people. That he has welcomed us into his family, not because of our grades at school, who we’ve slept with, what sport we play or our reputation. Christ Jesus, the son of God, died to rescue you. To give your life significance. “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose youa to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thes 2:13) Putting our trust in the ultimate truth, in Jesus Christ, is what brings genuine belonging, acceptance and significance.
If you can’t stand teen movies, Easy A isn’t going to change your mind. If you’re a teenager or spend time with teenagers, this is a great movie to interact with. It doesn’t (thankfully) go for the gross out element of many teen movies. There’s no nudity and while there are plenty of sexual reference, there are no actual sex scenes. Though do be cautious of the strong language. This is a movie unafraid to throw around the coarse language. Taking all these things into account, Easy A comes strongly recomended.
I agree with what you wrote:
” The modern trend, pioneered by movies such as American Pie, tends towards gross out humour and over the top sexualisation to try and stand out from the crowd.”
I think ever since the beginning of 2000, there’s been a drastic turn towards gratuitous sex and excessive swearing in movies i.e. Super Bad, Knocked Up, The Hangover movies. I feel like Zoolander (around that time) was one of the last not-completely-gross movies to be made.
There have been many non gross out movies made since then. The Muppets for example comes to mind. And I think you want to have a closer look at Zoolander – I wouldn’t show that movie to my youth group for instance because of things like the orgy scene.