Film Review

Stone makes grade in ‘Easy A’

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By Mat DeKinder

Even at its most nostalgic, high school was a pretty brutal place. It’s a setting where rumors and reputation and trump little things like “facts” and “moral integrity.” Essentially they are publicly funded hells on earth for wallflowers and outcasts.
“Easy A” is a charming little movie that is able to mine laughs from one high school outsider’s headlong and defiant plunge into rumor-mill infamy.
The put-upon teen in question is Olive, played by Emma Stone. This is the first tipoff that this movie is an utter work of fiction because any high school where the beguiling and foxy Stone would go unnoticed would have to exist in some parallel dimension where rivers were made out of ice cream and the Cubs could win a pennant.
Stone had proven she had the right stuff in movies like “Superbad” and “Zombieland” but here when given the opportunity to carry a movie, she shines. Olive is blessed (or cursed depending on how you look at it) with a heavy dose of maturity and intelligence.
Her rapid-fire delivery and expanded vocabulary will remind many in the audience of Ellen Page in “Juno,” but Stone has such a great sense of timing and command of the language, the words spoken by Olive seem to be coming from a real place and not hot off the screenwriter’s keyboard.
Olive finds herself in trouble when she blows off her friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) one weekend and conjures up an imaginary boyfriend as her cover story. She throws in a few sexual exploits to spice up the story, and seemingly before she can turn around word has gotten around the school that she is a first-degree skank.
Enjoying the attention and donning an “I don’t care what they think” attitude, Olive embraces her fictional persona. She even goes as far as “prostituting” her reputation, accepting gift cards for allowing nerdy and put-upon boys to claim to have done any number of deeds with her in order to boost their own status at the school.
As you would expect, things get out of hand as what Olive considered harmless and even helpful takes a turn as she goes from being the subject of gossip to the subject of persecution, most notably at the hands of the pious and vengeful Marianne (Amanda Bynes).
“Easy A” is very funny and very smart, and while Stone is the undisputed star of this movie and deserving of most of the accolades directed its way, she is surrounded by an outstanding collection of adult supporting actors who make the absolute most of their limited screen time.
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play Olive’s relaxed and megacool mom and dad. They are awesome enough to make you wish they were your parents, or at the very least had their own sitcom.
Back at school, Olive’s favorite teacher Mr. Griffith is played by Thomas Haden Church who deadpans his way through about five movies worth of inspirational teacher clichés.
Mr. Griffith just so happens to be married to the high school guidance counselor, who is played by Lisa Kudrow at her neurotic best.
And just to round things out, the school’s principal is played by Malcolm McDowell. That alone qualifies it as the coolest high school ever.
Director Will Gluck strikes the perfect tone as he keeps the film’s heart firmly intact amidst all the laughs. He’s also smart enough to know that Stone is a star in the making and to let her carry the movie from beginning to end.
“Easy A” certainly won’t make you wish you were back in high school, but it will make you laugh and remember fondly how lucky you were to survive it. If it does make you wish for anything, it would be that Emma Stone could have sat next to you in homeroom.

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