Monday, September 20, 2010
FILM REVIEW: Emma Stone's "Easy A"
A fortunate few get a pre-test, a PSAT of filmmaking: starring in an indie. Jesse Eisenberg held his own in the suspenseful The Education of Charlie Banks and impressed critics in the coming-of-age drama Adventureland before scoring one of the most controversial roles of one of this fall's most talked about dramas, The Social Network. But some actors, like Chloe Moretz, jump in head first: a cameo in the heartbreakingly funny (500) Days of Summer, a supporting role in the action-packed Kick-Ass, and now a starring role in the remade thriller Let Me In. This method is not always advised—just ask Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) and Megan Fox (Jennifer's Body). But it does seem to be working for Emma Stone.
The 21-year-old Arizona native first caught our attention in Superbad, while taking one in the head like a champ and falling for the chubby sidekick. Then she perfected her comic timing as a dorky sorority girl in The House Bunny and a spirit guide in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and honed her tough girl act as a guitar player in The Rocker and a shot gun-toting con artist in Zombieland. Most execs would say she was prime to take on a supporting role opposite some established young leading man, like Shia Labeouf, Sam Worthington, Joseph Gordon Levitt, or even Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song). Thankfully, however, we were spared the typical chick roles and the parade of zany rom-coms and presented with something a little more substantial.
In Easy A, Stone plays Olive, a book-smart teen who's more mature than her peers, both academically and psychologically. Due to her superiority, she is the ultimate outsider: a voyeur. Her big picture perspective exempts her from thinking it's cute to call her bff "Bitch" as a term of endearment, bowing at the feet of the most popular girl in school, and turning a blind eye to homophobic hate crimes. Of course, she does have one flaw. Because of her lack of social experience and general hermit lifestyle, she, like most outcasts, craves acknowledgement. But instead of stereotypically puffing when they pass a joint or piercing every visible part of herself, she decides to make a flamboyant statement. She turns the sexualization and objectification of her gay classmate into the sexualization and objectification of the teenage girl, by pretending to have loud sex with her victimized classmate Brandon (Dan Byrd from "Cougar Town" and "Aliens in America") during a party so everyone can spread the word of his heterosexuality.
Technically, giving into social expectation isn't taking a stand against homophobia, but it is taking one against the double standard that girls who sleep around should be ashamed while boys who sleep around should be worshiped. The next day, when one of the Jesus-loving virginity-advocates tells Olive she should wear an A on her chest just like Hester Prynne in the The Scarlet Letter, she amplifies her defiance by buying a bunch of trashy bustiers, sewing red A's on all of them, and basically wearing a perpetual "Fuck you!" to school every day.
She's suppose to be the modern independent (future) woman—indifferent to social standards and resistant to gender stereotypes—but this wouldn't be a film if there wasn't some conflict. While initially it preaches an end to homophobia and to gender inequality, it ultimately aims to teach Olive—and the sexually overt girls she's pretending to be like—a lesson: just because it's a double standard doesn't mean you could/should get away with it. The secret to having the best of both worlds is keeping that part of your life private, because really it's nobody's business. (Celebrities and sexting teens everywhere, please take note.)
Such an agenda can be perceived as a generic after-school special on paper, but newcomer Bert V. Royal peppered the dialogue with enough sarcasm and clever one-liners to make it smart enough for adults too. I only have two gripes with the film. The first is with the supporting cast members/characters/choices. Those are three different cases, because some people were bad actors, some had poorly written characters, and some were just not cast in the right role.
My second gripe with the film is the ending. The beginning starts with Olive doing a live broadcast online explaining what happened and why. That was a cool modern way of initiating a flashblack-structured film without only implementing voice-over. (And Olive's hand-written chapter titles were a nice touch too.) The structure was great. The climax was great. And each plot-driven event was fairly unpredictable...except for the ending. I know. It's suppose to end happily. She gets the guy. She clears her name. She maintains her self-respect and regains her dignity. Of course. But throughout the film there were a few meta moments leading to a cop-out ending.
Ultimately, I'd say this was a pretty enjoyable film and a huge stepping stone for the leading lady—no pun intended.
Grade: (an easy) B