Emma Stone is an American national treasure. A modern-day Meg Ryan or Diane Keaton, she combines sassy, girl-next-door wit with touching innocence and vulnerability. Ever since first appearing in ‘Superbad’ (2007), she has since won an Oscar for ‘La La Land’ (2017), but it was ‘Easy A’ (2010) which kickstarted her career and sealed her reputation as Hollywood’s most unstoppably reliable girl next door.
‘Easy A’ is narrated by 17 year old Olive Prenderghast who lives in Ojai, California, speaks into her webcam and attends high school. Olive lies to best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michelka) about going on a date in order to escape the prospect of camping with Rhiannon’s hippie parents. Instead, Olive spends the weekend singing Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ around her house - the song is played in a musical greetings card from her grandmother.
Pressured by Rhiannon, Olive lies about losing her virginity to a college boy. Marianne (Amanda Bynes), the blondest, prettiest, most Christian girl in school (who Olive considers prudish), overhears the lie and spreads the rumour that Olive is a “slut” throughout the whole school. The school’s church group run by Marianne decides Olive will be their next project. Olive confides the truth to a boy named Brandon (Dan Byrd) who is bullied for being gay. He later asks Olive to pretend to sleep with him at a party so he will be accepted by the school crowd as a “straight stud”.
Olive and Brandon have fake sex at a party. After a fight with Rhiannon over being called a “dirty skank”, Olive decides to counteract the harassment and embrace her “slut” image as the “school tramp”. Olive starts to wear more provocative clothing. Inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, she stitches an “A” onto her clothing. Boys who are usually unsuccessful with girls now beg Olive to have sex with them to increase their popularity; in exchange for gift cards to various stores. This simultaneously increases her reputation…
Emma Stone’s performance in this movie is a delight. She’ll make you laugh out loud one minute with her show-stopping rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’. She sings in the bedroom and in the shower. That scene made me want to skip down the street with a stride in my step singing along too. You also feel for her when she’s crying. A scene where she walks off in tears after an ill-fated date with a boy named Anson - who actually wanted to sleep with her rather than just pretending to - is particularly moving.
‘Easy A’ tackles the issue of slut shaming. Olive pretends to sleep with her friend Brandon and is called a “dirty skank” by popular girl Rhiannon. This exposes a double standard where if a man was caught sleeping around with attractive women, he’d be seen as a hot player whereas if a woman does it, she is publicly humiliated and called a “slut”.
The film touches on Christianity and its attitudes towards sex before marriage. Marianne, a devout Christian, spreads the lie that Olive is sleeping around throughout the whole school as her supposed promiscuity goes against the Christian belief of no sex before marriage.
‘Easy A’ is the latest in a long line of films to transport and adapt a literary classic to a high-school setting - it’s loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel ‘The Scarlet Letter’. ‘Clueless’ (1995) was based on Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ and ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999) on William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. ‘Easy A’ isn’t as good as those films, but it does share their ability to take social issues such as shaming and social stigmatising and make them accessible for a mainstream, teenage audience.
The movie has witty, accessible dialogue. I remember the scene where Micah catches Chlamydia. Chlamydia is such a taboo topic, but ‘Easy A’ busts that blue taboo by having Marianne scream “CHLAMYDIA!” down the phone line followed by “that bitch!”. Makes me laugh so hard!
There are some great supporting performances. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are brilliantly unassuming as Olive’s parents who disapprove mightily of her sexual promiscuity. Thomas Haden-Church is far better here than he was as Sandman in ‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007) as prudish teacher Mr. Griffith and Malcolm McDowell gets a great cameo as the principal - a world away from psychopathic Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971).
But it’s Stone’s delightful performance that steals the show. I just wanted to scream “I GOT A POCKETFUL OF SUNSHINE!” from the top of my lungs. This is her show and she steals it.