Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Easy A (2010) - Much better than the shit, throwaway teen comedy that the poster and trailer make it out to be

Viewing Context:
After having completely dismissed it when it was at the cinema, I borrowed a copy from someone at work to watch with Tasha on an evening. I had anticipated it to be an enjoyable-enough teen comedy, but didn’t expect to like it this much.

Directed by Will Gluck, who has previously directed Fired Up and Friends with Benefits, neither of which I have seen and reading the titles, would have dismissed them quicker than Easy A, but I don't know, maybe I should give them a go too, and stop being so presumptuous and judgmental. Having said that, I think this film's strengths were in the performance and the script, therefore I will be keeping an eye on the writer Bert V. Royal.

What Happened:
Olive (Emma Stone) is a high school girl who tells her friend that she slept with some gut (just to shut her up, rather than for any kind of status based peer pressure to lie - or was it?? See 'themes' below). Her uber-christian arch nemesis Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears; needless to say, in no time at all, the whole school knows. The lying doesn't stop there as her gay friend asks her to say that she slept with him so that he could fit in. Needless to say, the lying doesn't even stop there as she gets ridiculously in over her head and it all inevitably spirals out of control. Really, it doesn't even sound good writing that, but it is - honest.

What I liked:
Emma Stone - a real rising star: Whether it's the character or the actor, she is one of the most charismatic, sassy and commanding leading women I have seen in this type of mainstream, fun and commercial film. Even the great actresses have put in some dreadful rom-com performances. She is original, fresh and genuinely 21st century. I will have to see her in more in order to ascertain whether it is her or the scriptwriters that deserve more of the praise, but either way she carried this film.
Candidates for best onscreen parents of all time: The parents were less convincingly real, but just as (if not more) enjoyable. The part where the dad turns to their adopted black kid and says, "so where are you from exactly?" cracked me up.
Repetition/variation: Perfect genre model of hitting the right balance; to be familiar enough to be easily accepted by a mass audience, while inverting many presumed myths in order to entertain and make confident comments on teen life.

What I didn't like:
Nothing much to say here: It would be tempting to say that her romantic interest was a bit void of character, but I feel this was deliberate. Either in order to show how she doesn't need an active man to be in her narrative (despite the character conceding that she wished there was), or, by sidelining the need for an active male, it further distances the core of this story from its aesthetic influence: eighties teen movies - by extension, the cinematically male-centric eighties in general. It comes back to what I said above about repetition/variation; it knowingly and lovingly moulds itself as an eighties teen film, but there are fundamental things that have changed in teen society between then and now.

There is no escaping adolescent peer pressure: No matter how smart you are, no matter how sassy, learned, self confident, wisecracking and mentally stable you are, you cannot escape high school peer pressure. It is very convincingly and genuinely ambiguous, as to whether she really does want to fit in, or if she wants to be individual. It's like she knows that she should be above it, and that she wouldn't jeopardise her individuality, but she really would like to fit in. This is most blatantly conveyed through the short lived friendship with her arch nemesis Christian girl.
Lying actually is necessary some times: She confessed that she never felt worse than when she told the truth and tore apart a marriage.
Doesn't need her man: Her struggles are her own; she has her own agency within the narrative and never concedes her individuality for a boy (although she does so for society more generally - possibly more specifically her female peers). If anything, the film makes a point of sidelining his agency (see 'what I didn't like' above). It is similar to what impressed me about both Princess and the Frog and Tangled; they get a balance right where the girl doesn't NEED this heterosexual fairy tale finish, but it doesn't go the opposite way either, this comes off for them incidentally where they have dealt with their own problems already.
Finally, organised religion is redundant and backwards: Repeatedly pokes fun at its double standards and imbecility.

Scene of the film:
Introduction of the Parents: The first scene with her parents was not only hilarious, but it was the film saying ‘look, if you want to have an adolescent daughter that has at least an ounce of self respect, confidence and a mostly positive approach to life, then this is what kind of free and honest atmosphere she has to grow up in’. Clearly it was exaggerated for comic effect, but it certainly set out its point clearly.

Not a second hesitation here; Emma Stone is the greatest thing in an already impressive film. She captures the angst, the yearning, the sarcasm, a little teen-apathy and indecision whilst simultaneously delivering it with wit and an impressively confident self astuteness. Can't wait to see what else she can pull off and I am now at least vaguely interested in the new Spider-man seeing as she will be playing Gwen Stacy.

Final Word:
Best teen comedy... possibly ever; a really honest and genuine air about it.

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