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October 3, 2010

"Easy A" gets an easy F

Everyone hates high school, right? It’s a teenage wasteland populated by adolescent monsters that will chew you up and spit you out if you resist them, and this is precisely the lesson Easy A imparts to its viewers: Get out of high school before they kill you.

Emma Stone stars as Olive, an invisible (yet stunningly beautiful) high schooler who rises to infamy after she lies to her remarkably annoying best friend about losing her virginity to a boy from the local community college. They are overheard by the school asshole—the typical religious shrew, Marianne (Amanda Bynes)—who spreads the inexplicably juicy tidbit all over school.

Madness ensues. Olive pretends to have sex with a gay friend to help him fend off homophobes, and all at once nerds appear out of the woodwork to have reputation-bolstering, imaginary flings with the new Hester Prynne. Olive accepts the whore label, affixes an “A” to her new wardrobe of bustiers, and within two weeks, has gained a level of scandal and infamy she could have only imagined.

What follows is a very funny performance by Stone, as well as some laughs from Bynes. Still, the film’s message makes it difficult to fully engage with it. The characters’ prevailing opinion on popularity and high school seems to be, “Hold on tight, outsiders! Keep completely silent during your high school years, because speaking up will cause trauma to everyone you talk to. So for the love of snarky one-liners, wait till you graduate! It’s freaking Shangri La out there, you’ll see!” It is better to be lonely and unknown, save for your best friend who constantly calls you a bitch, than to be known for having sex. If your fellow students discover anything unorthodox about your personality, nothing will stop them from ruining your life.

The movie reminds us not to dwell much on its implications. Penn Bagdley, playing the romantic lead Todd, tells Olive not to worry her little head over things like symbolism and meaning. We don’t have to delve into any deep feminist problems to dismiss this movie, though. There is simply too much obvious silliness to even think about suspending disbelief. The rumor of sex being of great interest to anyone in high school? Penn Bagdley working as the mascot? A teenager who gets along famously with her parents? Science fiction.

But there are offenses of a higher order. Olive helps a friend pretend he isn’t gay. That’s not kind, that’s enabling. Worst of all, the gag isn’t funny enough to make up for its political incorrectness.

Final verdict? Emma Stone is lovely, and she will be in other films. Go do fun college things and suppress how awful your own high school experience was.

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