Olive (Stone) is a bright pupil getting by at a small-town high school, unnoticed by the populars. Until another student asks her to help him hide his homosexuality by pretending to have sex with him. When word gets around, the floodgates open, turning Olive into a pseudo-floozy. Can she clear her name?
Empire has a theory. In 1995, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless was the first genuinely great teen comedy in years — smart and bouncy, it created a huge star in Alicia Silverstone. Four years later, in 1999, 10 Things I Hate About You did the same thing, taking literary inspiration — in this case Shakespeare, as opposed to Clueless’ Jane Austen vibe — and turning it into a script with bona fide smarts and chuckles, while making its lead, Heath Ledger, hot stuff. Five years later, along came Tina Fey’s Mean Girls, which sent Lindsay Lohan’s star rocketing. Temporarily.
With us so far? You don’t need to be Robert Langdon to crack this code. It’s been six years since Mean Girls, so by our reckoning we’re due another great teen comedy, and lo and behold, here it comes in the guise of Will Gluck’s Easy A.
Like the others, it’s deceptively light and breezy stuff, with its hilarious rat-a-tat dialogue masking perceptive social comment (it’s a movie which roots for the little guy without ever getting out the soapbox). Like the others (well, the first two), it uses its source material well — Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which is directly referenced throughout. And like the others, it’s a movie that skilfully fleshes out its supporting cast, treating the adults, including Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow as married teachers going through some issues, as actual characters, while serving up a heck of a role for its leading lady. And about time, too.
For Emma Stone has been on the cusp for ages, her smoky voice, playful attitude and godsent comic timing marking her out in the likes of Superbad and Zombieland. And Olive is the perfect vehicle for her, affording her the opportunity to do a little bit of just about everything, including pieces to camera, a song-and-dance number and a transformation from plain Jane to sultry vixen that, for once, doesn’t seem forced. But Olive’s chief weapon is her intelligence, with Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal unafraid to allow her to be the smartest and funniest girl in the room. Except, perhaps, when she’s trading barbs with her parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, so delightful you’ll want to adopt them) in scenes so fun they’ll make the seven-year wait for the next great teen-com bearable.
Arguably the best teen comedy since Clueless, its easy to give this one an A. Well, A-.