Easy A is an easy movie to love. It’s incredibly funny, feministy, and charming with clever dialogue and a lot of sass.
The heroine, Olive (played by Emma Stone), is smart and confidant, yet flawed. After unintentionally starting rumours about herself, she stands up to the judgments of her peers while revelling (at least temporarily) in her new-found fame. She’s the girl every smart girl would have wanted to be in high school (Ok, maybe without some of her problems).
It’s similar in style to Mean Girls: Cute red-head with awesome liberal parents gets noticed in high school. High school sucks her in and nearly ruins her but because she’s smart she ends up OK. It’s nice modern fairly tale, complete with charming love story ending.
Smart. Charming. Hilarious. All around good, right? Well mostly, but just so you don’t think I’ve gone soft, here’s what was wrong with it:
#1-It was too smart
This sounds absurd, I know, but sometimes movies that know they’re really clever are irritating. I do like smart movies and I wish more movies (particularly those about/for teenage girls) relied on wit. But it’s distracting to listen to dialogue that is too good for the context. It eliminates the human element. People are flawed. And as much as we’d all like to wield clever lines during a verbal attack instead of after the bully left, life’s not like that.
#2 – The Evil Guidance Counselor
Mrs. Griffith (Lisa Kudrow) the guidance counselor is the worst character in the movie. She’s out-of-place in the world of whiny high schoolers, crazy church girls, and sassy fake-sluts because she isn’t enough of a caricature. That sounds odd, I know, but bear with me. The supporting characters are all very deliberate types. Mrs. Griffith is not as smart, not even particularly funny and ends up victimizing poor Olive in a way that high school kids can’t.
#3- Facebook jokes
Making jokes about how silly teenagers are with their newfangled gadgets, cell phones and social media is lame (I’m paraphrasing here):
“I don’t know what it is about you young people needing to document every part of your life. ‘Joe posted on Facebook that he got a coke zero.” Ha ha ha. Kids are stupid.
It’s not funny because it’s completely unoriginal. Not to mention its disingenuous. It might be easier to find stupid people on the internet because they’re all in one place, but it doesn’t mean that they’re any dumber than the real world. Critics of social media pick out only the very worst people to prove a point.
But really, that’s the best that I can do because it was a really good movie.
It was particularly poignant considering all the talk about bullying and teen deaths lately (though no one seems to ever talk about our society’s fascination with slut shaming).
When Olive suggests to her gay classmate Brandon that he should pretend to be straight to stop the bullies, I felt a little queasy. I immediately thought of all the criticism of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” you tube campaign. Is she really telling him to hide who he is? Is she giving into the bullies? How is this a good message to send?
But like Savage’s campaign, this movie wasn’t about eliminating bullies (as we find out, even Olive’s attempts to stand up to bullies gets her screwed over) it was a movie about the bullshit in high school. It would be great to rid the world of bullies and prevent bad things from happening to kids. But school is a weird place where kids get creepy hive mentalities and do bad things. (Kate Harding argues that they’re total fucking assholes… which some clearly are… but sometimes kids just act like assholes because high school is a messed up place.)
I felt good at the end of the movie. There were some tough moments — even in the context of this film, moments everyone can relate to — and there were some great moments. But mostly, there was a strong girl standing up for herself. It’s worth a watch.