For the past three years, we’ve been left quoting “Mean Girls” left and right, yelling out “She doesn’t even go here!” in situations when it doesn’t even make sense and putting on the strict face of authority to say, “If you have sex, you will get chlamydia – and die” whenever the practically taboo topic is brought up. We get all the jokes now, but in 2004, high school was as foreign a place as Afghanistan. Even in the six years since Tina Fey’s first big splash (and Lindsay Lohan’s last big splash), high school has changed, and we can thank Facebook, YouTube, and iPhones for that.
I was afraid that I might graduate high school with only a dated high school movie to show my kids what it was like to be my age in 2010. Thanks to “Easy A,” such concerns are no more. It’s a near perfect reflection of the realities of living in a sphere where gossip travels as quickly as text messages can be sent over a 3G connection and reputations can be ruined in the split-second it takes to update a Facebook status.
It’s also remarkable that while the movie is very current, it isn’t entirely grounded in 2010. It takes a page from one of American literature’s finest, “The Scarlet Letter,” and plops it down in front of a webcam. And darned if we aren’t convinced that Nathaniel Hawthorne would have vodcasted his classic story through YouTube had it existed back in the nineteenth century. The movie is a testament not just to the creativity of the writers of “Easy A,” but also to Hawthorne for spawning a story that is still relevant centuries after publication.
In this offshoot, Hester Prynne becomes Olive Penderghast, a nonentity in high school with only the nagging Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) to call a friend. But to get her persistent companion off her case, Olive concocts a story that she had sex with a college boy. In the world where nothing stays silent and everything is public, she is quickly branded a number of derogatory terms. But rather than try to correct her social standing, she starts to solicit her services – that is, faking intimacy – for gift cards. Eventually, the ripple effect of Olive’s transformation affects everyone, including the ultra-Christian sect led by Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes), the marriage of her favorite teacher (Thomas Haden Church), and her feelings for the one guy she actually cares for (Penn Badgley).
Emma Stone is hardly a new sight for anyone that’s been seeing good movies recently; she has been scene-stealing as the heartbreaking Jules in “Superbad” and the zombie-killing Wichita in “Zombieland.” This, however, is the movie that will bring her into the mainstream consciousness. ”Easy A” gives her all the material for a breakout role, and Stone seizes every moment to create a character that will shoot her into stardom.
Her Olive Penderghast can sling many a biting and sophisticated phrase not unlike Ellen Page’s Juno. She’s definitely a little rough and tough, similar to Molly Ringwald in her multiple roles in John Hughes’ teenage classics of the 1980s. But most of all, there’s the winning familiarity that made Lindsay Lohan and Alicia Silverstone popular in “Mean Girls” and “Clueless,” respectively. Although the former has gone down the drain and the latter has gone into obscurity, I do hope that “Easy A” is just the beginning for Stone. Who cares that she may look way too old to be in high school? Her magnetism is undeniable, and this can remain the current defining high school movie until the next social advances warrant another one be made. B+ /