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 Chaste coed gets bad reputation in cautionary comedy

Entertainment



Photo courtesy of Adam Taylor/Sony
Emma Stone stars in "Easy A," now playing movie theaters.

By Kam Williams / Critic

(Sept. 23, 2010) — Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) was a social zero who barely registered a blip on the radar at Ojai North High until the fateful Monday morning she inadvertently started a rumor about herself. Too embarrassed to admit to her best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), that she’d just spent another entire weekend home alone, she impulsively makes up a story about losing her virginity to a college boy.

What Olive didn’t know, as she shared the lurid details of her imaginary tryst, was that eavesdropping in a bathroom stall was Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes), the school prude. The “stuck-up Jesus freak,” who’s proud of her pledge to remain chaste until marriage, began circulating the lie all over campus, leaving Olive saddled with a bad reputation.

Curiously, instead of trying to resurrect her tarnished image, the ostracized girl decides to embrace her new slutty persona. Ostensibly, inspired by Hester Prynne, the adulterous protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” Olive even sews a red “A” on the corset she wears to a house party thrown by a classmate.

There, in full view of plenty of revelers, she wanders off to a bedroom for a loud sex session with Brandon (Dan Byrd), a pal who’d been suspected of being gay. And it isn’t long before all sorts off nerds and losers are lining up to establish their macho street cred with the help of Olive, as word spreads that she’s willing to let any guy say he’s slept with her, at least for the right price.

Directed by Will Gluck ("Fired Up!"), "Easy A" is actually a lot easier to swallow than suggested by its disgusting-sounding premise. That’s thanks to a script, which is frankly so funny it never gives you a chance to come up for air to reflect about the political correctness of the brand of humor you’re laughing at.

Additional credit goes to Stone for bringing so much spunk to the lead role of Olive as to make the character credible and very memorable, if not exactly empathetic. Of equal import is the fact that the principal cast is stocked with accomplished thespians, including Malcolm McDowell and a couple of Oscar-nominees in Patricia Clarkson (for "Pieces of April") and Thomas Haden Church (for "Sideways"). Still, a side-splitting teensploit is not made of gravitas alone, which is why the presence of seasoned comedians like Lisa Kudrow, Amanda Bynes and Fred Armisen proves so invaluable.

A feminist variation on a beloved, literary classic which triumphantly announces that in the 21st Century it’s a woman’s prerogative to be the town tramp if she darn well wants to.

Excellent (****)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, drug use and teen sexuality.

Running time: 92 Minutes

Distributor: Screen Gems




 
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