Monday, October 4, 2010

Easy A Review.

I’d planned to retire from this blogging biz due to the fact that no one was reading my shit, however, since I figured out my boy Grant (formerly known as Dee) would be getting a link to this one I may as well write it up for his benefit.

As none of you there know, last Sunday arvo was NRL Grand Final afternoon. Generally this is a weekend I look forward to – as a die-hard Sharks supporter it usually involves me picking a bandwagon and riding it as hard as possible.

Not this year, however. You see, the 2010 edition of the Grand Final featured two of the teams I hate the most – the St Merge Drag Queens and the Easts (not Sydney, whatever Nick Politis’ ego may like to think) Cocks/Rorters/Rooters. The reasons to hate the Drag Queens are pretty obvious – my Sharks’ most hated rivals due to the geographical thing, plus since I live in the St George area these days it would be hell for the next few months if they won.

Then again, I also go to uni and work in the eastern suburbs, so a Cocks win wouldn’t be much of a benefit in that regard either. Plus, they’re the fucking Rooters. To back them is to lose a small piece of your soul.

Dad, living in St George and being a lifelong admirer of Wayne Bennett despite being a Manly man at heart, was well and truly on the Red V bandwagon. But me, I couldn’t pick one and live with myself for it. So in the end I said fuck it, drove down to Cronulla away from the Drag Queen bogans/Lebs and decided to go spend the money I would otherwise have bet on the game on pancakes at Nulla Nulla, followed by a movie at Westfield Miranda.

Once I got to Hoyts, though, I realised I was fucked as I knew very little about any of the movies on offer. The second Wall Street movie was the only one I had any knowledge about, and having never seen the first I decided to wait until I had.

Then I noticed a poster for Easy A and remembered seeing a trailer for it in another movie some time back. The trailer seemed interesting enough at the time (even though it had that obnoxious Ke$ha song) and I’ve thought Emma Stone was hot since her turn in Superbad, where she managed to look good throughout. Including the final scene despite having that nasty shiner where Jonah Hill drunkenly headbutted her. (Something I can say I’ve never done when drunk).

In the end, the main selling point was that the screening time meant I could watch it and get home in time for dinner – while that meant the end of the game, it also meant I wouldn’t miss any of Hamish and Andy’s new show from India. So I got a medium popcorn, large Sprite and peanut M&Ms (my movie snack lineup when I can’t afford ice cream) and headed for the theatre not expecting much more other than something that could hopefully not bore me to sleep.

Turns out that not only was I not bored to sleep, but I found myself enjoying the whole movie. Easy A is that rarest of cinematic animals – an intelligent movie about high school.

The plot itself cribs from the novel The Scarlet Letter, which is referenced throughout. Emma Stone plays Olive Pendergast, an ordinary high school girl who lies to her best mate about losing her virginity over the weekend and is overheard in the shitter by a Jesus-freak girl played by Amanda Bynes, who I can’t believe is still young enough to play high schoolers considering I’m old enough to remember The Amanda Show and All That (and enjoyed both very much as a kid).

Either way, rumours spread as they do and Olive is the center of attention. She uses her newfound notoriety to help out a gay mate by faking it at a party (probably the funniest scene in the whole movie, coming from someone who has done the exact same thing).

As things do, this little encounter splits the school in half – the half that know the truth (mostly male outcasts) start giving her gifts so they can spread their own rumours about doing various dirty things to them, the rest just start seeing her as a slut. Olive herself starts to revel in her new role as school tramp, right down to wearing a bright red letter A on her scantily-clad left boob (I believe this is an allusion to The Scarlet Letter). Then the problems start when she gets mixed up in a student-teacher affair, her best mate abandons her and she has to try and get her good name back. With the help of a studly young bloke who sees her for what she is and doesn’t want to take advantage of her, of course. And the final scene is ripped straight out of Sixteen Candles with musical cues from The Breakfast Club. (I think – I’ve only seen Sixteen Candles once, five years ago, and I was high at the time).

The story itself is told in flashback by Olive in the form of a webcast. Modern technology plays a notable role in the movie as the purveyor of rumours – every time a new one starts it gets followed by a montage of students checking their mobiles – but the school itself is somewhat anachronistic. While Amanda Bynes’ little Jesus freak clique are obviously the main antagonists of the movie and the plot drives itself as such, having only graduated high school two years ago I find it hard to believe that a school in the Western, English-speaking world exists where a girl automatically gets labelled a slut for swiping her V-card in a one night stand. But hell, it’s a movie. Gotta suspend belief a little.

I guess I notice this partly because it seems a little out of step with the rest of the movie. The biggest strength of Easy A, which sets it apart from most teen comedies, is that it treats the audience with a degree of intelligence. Obviously this involves mocking stupidity somewhat – a gag about both the Bible and Twilight being together on the best-sellers rack of a library an example of this – but the dialogue plays to the characters type. Olive was clearly written as being smart and quick-witted, and the dialogue shows us as much. Too often teen movies play their characters as dumb even if they’re supposed to come off as smart (Twilight, I’m staring in your direction) – Easy A treats it’s characters as they’re supposed to be and is a better movie for it.

Obviously, the actors’ performances play a major role. Emma Stone was a perfect casting choice for Olive – she’s just normal-looking enough to play an ordinary high school girl while still looking movie star-hot all the time. And her performance was also terrific. A lesser actress may have over-done Olive the slut, not played her hard enough or tried too hard for laughs – Stone plays her perfectly, never veering over the edge. In a fair world, this would be her Tom Cruise in Risky Business breakout role.

And it’s not just Stone. Aly Michalka is hilarious as Emma’s brash, slightly skanky best friend Rhiannon, and I’m not just saying that because she’s hot and an ex-Disney girl who curses more than the rest of the cast put together. While Penn Badgeley is a bit Gary Stu-ish as Lobster Todd, the guy who Olive has loved since a game of 7 Minutes in Heaven in seventh grade, he doesn’t detract too much from the script. And Stanley Tucci steals the show in all his scenes as Olive’s kooky but understanding dad.

Easy A is not generally the kind of movie I watch – on the Chick/Guys Movie Scale it definitely tends towards the Chick side of the ledger. There are no explosions, nudity, sex/bodily humour/racist jokes (apparently it was cut down to a PG-13 movie and it’s possible some of the cut stuff could make the DVD) and this is the guy who once created a quasi-scientific movie formula based on those criteria. Using said formula, Easy A would only score because of the hotness of the triple threat of Emma Stone/Amanda Bynes/Aly Michalka, and they wear all their clothes throughout, although Olive does push the boundaries in her slut phase (in the words of her mum, “You’re dressing like a stripper. But a high end one. An expensive one, for businessmen and governors.”).

Maybe I really am getting mature as I get older, because in spite of all of this I really enjoyed Easy A. It’s a smart, witty flick with some great performances, good but not over the top humour (a lot of which comes from Olive’s parents) and above all, a feel of realism. Too often Hollywood creates teen movies which are wholly unrealistic – Easy A never falls into this trap.

On my way back home coming up Tom Uglys, I checked the radio and realised the Drag Queens had won and since St Merge Leagues Club is on Princes Highway near my house, I would be hitting the parade. So I had to take a long route home and missed the start of Hamish and Andy Learn India. (The fact that I didn’t miss the whole things is a testament to my inate knowledge of the southern Sydney burbs). But I didn’t mind. I had just eaten some of the best pancakes ever created at Nulla Nulla and gotten back from a fun movie experience. I’ll definitely be seeing Easy A again before its theatre run ends. Probably today, given that it’s Super Tuesday.