Easy A, the latest high school comedy to hit theatres, explores touchy subjects with wit and sarcasm. Despite the typical lighthearted cheeriness of the genre, the film explores rather heavy themes of sexuality, gossip, ostracism and self-worth. However, the true nature of Easy A, even when addressing these themes, is of a fast-paced comedic tone.
As the trailers for the film outline, the story follows wisecracking highschooler Olive (portrayed by Emma Stone) as she accidentally stumbles upon a plan that can make her money and earn her the attention of her fellow classmates. She soon goes into business of pretending to sleep with boys who feel that their reputations depend on their sexual conquests.
Olive embraces her new false identity as a promiscuous woman, even adorning a scarlet A on her outfits; however, things soon take a turn for the worse. As everything spins out of her control, she struggles with the consequences and infamy that result from her bad decisions.
While the premise might seem like a one-shot gag that drives the film, Easy A takes some time to explore the motivations and consequences of its central idea in an entertaining way that involves many hilarious situations.
The frame story for the film is a series of weblogs by Olive in which she explains her side of the story and actually recognizes all of the bad decisions that she makes along the way. While on one hand the film rebukes the fickle persecution high school students dish out to each other, Olive’s solution to the problem is not ideal either.
The story draws inspiration from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” directly referencing this fact in the film. Both stories explore how society is quick to treat people with hate and condemnation instead of love and kindness. Olive consciously identifies with Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s novel, even down to donning the eponymous scarlet letter “A.”
These parallelisms strengthen the impact of the thematic material of the film, but at the same time, they become a bit of a crutch, as it seems that the movie relies a bit too much on the message of a preexisting work rather than forging a strong message of its own.
Also disappointing is Easy A’s trite villains: the overzealous, fundamentalist Christians who are the cause of the majority of the condemnation and persecution throughout the story. Amanda Bynes is hilarious as Marianne, their ring leader, playing the mean girl for once.
While most of the characters in the film are exaggerated caricatures, the Christian group is a bit of an overused and exhausted Hollywood cliché. Its role in the film is justifiable given the similar role that Puritans play in the film’s source material, serving as a symbol of the folly of hypocrisy.
While the core themes of the story are compelling and meaningful, the movie dwells more on the humor instead. Most of the supporting characters are one-dimensional or unlikable, with the exception of Olive’s teacher Mr. Griffith, played by Thomas Haden Church, who sadly never receives the development that he deserves. Even the legitimate romantic interest, played by Penn Badgley, hardly has any depth and hardly does any romancing, merely serving as a tacked on necessity in the formula of the film.
Most of the characters exist to make one-liners or create funny situations, never experiencing dynamic change or developing meaningful relationships, despite the fact that developing meaningful relationships is actually one of the themes of the movie.
By the end of the film, there is the vaguely inspiring idea that people should determine their own self-worth, but whatever strength that point may hold is lost amidst the other half-finished messages of the movie.
Overall, Easy A’s witty dialogue and comic moments are what make it entertaining. Those intrigued by the premise in the trailers will most likely find everything they expected.
However, anybody expecting something that delves deeply into the issues of the story will be disappointed. Easy A tries to be insightful, but then decides that depth isn’t something that it needs to bother with, focusing instead on being a hilarious comedy with no shortage of laughs.