Every now and again, a seemingly low brow, clichéd looking, assumedly formulaic movie defies all of those preconceptions and becomes not just popular, but respected. When it comes to seemingly low brow, clichéd looking, assumedly formulaic genres, high school based chick flicks would be one of the easiest to dismiss. But in the 90s, those preconceptions were defied with Clueless. Then, in the new millennium, Mean Girls did the job. And for this decade, the title has gone to Easy A.
Olive (Emma Stone) is a smart, confident, well adjusted high school girl. And even though she’s played by Emma Stone, so goes completely unnoticed by the boys. After lying about a date, the lie grows and grows until she’s lost her virginity to this made up dude. With new attention and street cred, Olive makes no effort to refute the stories. She even takes it to new levels when she lets a gay friend lie about sleeping with her so he can manipulate his own reputation and avoid being a target of the homophobic jocks.
Soon, Olive is accepting payment from the school’s collection of nerds, outcasts and losers to say she’s slept with them all. They get to brag about banging a hottie, and she gets… Well, the movie kind of tries to make it seem like there’s a reason for Olive to perpetuate these lies, but it never really sells it. Eventually, Olive realises there are unforeseen consequences and that her lies might not be a victimless crime.
So, it turns out, Easy A is top to bottom terrible. It’s one of the most over cooked, over written, over tweaked and tightened screenplays I have ever seen brought to life. Every single character always has the exact perfect thing ready to say. This is the kind of agonised over dialogue that even Aaron Sorkin would think is a bit much. This leads to two major problems; All the characters we’re supposed to like speak the exact same way as each other, with their amazingly quick retorts and pithy comebacks. Which gets old within the first 10 minutes.
Which leads to the other problem, none of them are unique or different from each other in any way. Olive’s parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) are basically the exact same characters as her favourite teacher (Thomas Hayden Church). The only difference is a ham fisted plot point that needs a trusted adult character who Olive isn’t related to. So much of this script is the tail wagging the dog, like screenwriter Bert V Royal had a few key jokes, scenes and conflicts in mind, then forced characters and stories in there to make an excuse for those jokes, scenes and conflicts.
Easy A is a big ol’ pile of steaming, stinking shit. Yet, I totally get why it has a pretty solid reputation. Emma Stone is great in it, undeniably charismatic and watchable. And when Easy A came out, she was still just the chick from Superbad and Zombieland. This was her first lead role and she nailed it. So I can understand audiences in 2010 being on board with Easy A purely based on this break out performance from this break out star. But these days, we have five more years of Emma Stone starring roles to choose from. So when you have movies like Birdman, The Help and Magic in the Moonlight to choose from, there’s no reason for anyone in 2015 to slum it with Easy A.