Film / Film with Female Lead / Gender Politics / Review

Easy A (2010)


I didn’t really mean for the lie to put me on the map, but I gotta admit – I kinda liked being on the map

Based (incredibly loosely) on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, Easy A tells the story of high school-er Olive (Emma Stone), who inadvertently starts a rumour about herself when she fabricates a lie to her best friend (Aly Michalka). This lie (a result of Olive succumbing to peer pressure) evolves into a full-scale high school scandal which both blesses and curses our 17-year-old protagonist.

Easy A is an interesting and – at some points – funny story of the wildfire rumours create; insecurities, jealousy, peer pressure, image and hypocrisy are all themes under fire in this witty film. Although there’s nothing groundbreaking about Easy A, it is a charming and somewhat nostalgic ride; it is difficult to believe though, that such scandal over a young woman’s sexuality would be caused in a high school today. I know that for women, some things never change, but Easy A makes me think that it could have been set in the ‘50s.

What was humourous about Easy A was the display of the latest idioms and phrases running the cultural circuit – even I, as hip as I am, learned a few things from the (again, stock) gay teen who throws out “lemon squeeze” and “backwards melon bag” – I’m sure these are phrases materialised from some genius writer, but if it’s on UrbanDictionary.com – it’s got to have worked. This aspect of the film reminded me of the masterpiece Juno, in which the whip-smart lead adds “izzles” to the end of almost everything.

For those of us that are not as well versed on gender paradoxes and cultural contradictions as others, it’s fair to say that Easy A does lay some rather glossy foundations for the women’s rights movement. Very basic (but still very valid) questions such as:

  • Why is it that a man can be as sexually promiscuous as he wants and be labelled a ‘dude’, whilst a woman in the same position is a ‘slut’?
  • What is actually wrong with someone who has a vast sexual appetite?

Although these two questions are answered favourably (and as already mentioned, somewhat glamourised account) by our pretty protagonist, it’s important to remember that as light-hearted as this film is, it still attempts to highlight some serious failings in our cultural view of women, gender and sex. Of course, Olive is no Simone de Beauvoir, but to affirm a cliché: “her heart is in the right place”. But for self-fulfilling reasons, of course. Finding and catching a cute guy in the process is a supposed bonus in this pseudo-pseudo-feminist film, but let’s not forget losing your best friend and your sense of self in the process.

I just started piling on lie after lie, it was like setting up Jenga

Pros

  • Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s unconventional, nourishing and avant-garde parents, as well as Thomas Haden Church as the hard-nosed teacher everyone loves, made this film for me. My highlights of the film contain at least one of these characters (and Olive’s self-obsessed best friend, of course)
  • An entertaining weekend film, one to discuss on the car ride home.

Cons

  • On the predictable side, though a film with a message for teens is bound to follow some formula
  • Attempts to be tongue-in-cheek, ironic, and a little too self-aware for me

Final Verdict

5/10

A forgettable movie, Easy A achieves what you think a movie of this demographic would: witty one-liners, eye candy, the ability to relate generically with the lead character and some stereotypes that will make you think, “I know somebody just like that”.

Circling back to the film’s attempts at being thought-provoking, I think execution of what was a great idea failed (which is the oh-so-common problem with film today). If there were a few more valid points in this teen film, I may have been more forgiving. But Easy A is just that – a teen film. And for what it is, I think it’s up there with the greats of the genre; a female American Pie (or, an updated Mean Girls [thank you, Chris]), if you will.

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