In 2009, with the death of John Hughes, the Generation Xers lost a beacon from their teenage years. With the release of Easy A, it’s comforting to know that Hughes is alive and well in the cinema. The influence of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)) on a generation of teenagers, combined with equal parts angst and apathy, is as present in Easy A as it is in any of Hughes’ classics.
Olive (Emma Stone) is a nobody at her school, that is, until she gets a reputation as a slut. A reputation that is unwarranted. Between lying about losing her virginity and convincing her friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) that it may be better to act straight through high school to avoid the daily gay bashing, Olive unwittingly finds herself in the business of not having sex for money as every nerd and unknown approaches her to do the same for them. Meanwhile, the rest of the students, especially Marianne (Amanda Bynes) and her cronies, who want Olive removed from the school, taunt and tease Olive while trying to get a piece of her action. The film is narrated by Olive, via web cam, as she tells the story of her (mis)adventures. Olive learns life lessons as she fake rocks the worlds of her fellow students, the audience may learn a thing or two as well, like the difference between a lemon squeeze and a backwards melon bag.
While Emma Stone can carry a film, much like Mary Ringwald before her, she gets a little help from her friends. The director, Will Gluck, has surrounded Stone with a great cast of up and coming talent, and a few seasoned ones, to bring Easy A to a new level. Apart from Stone, her parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, are also brilliant. It feels as if they’ve been through their own John Hughes film and grew up to become the cool parents who never get too worried about anything. Olive’s teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), is played similarly to the parents, but with a beaten down hard edge that gives him an air of authority while maintaining his likability. Church is a subtle player of comedy, and he does it well, repeat viewings of Sideways (2004) brings this to light.
As references to John Hughes, and other teen comedy elements, surface it becomes clear that Easy A is self aware, but not to a fault. Writer Bert V. Royal deserves credit for a great script that stays above water with the humor and antics and doesn’t get distracted by its homage status. There are also elements of other smart teen comedies, like, Saved! (2004), which give the film a well rounded feel.
If you’re looking for a film that delivers a mix of teen comedy from yesteryear and today while fulfilling your need for another Hughes classic, Easy A will fill the void.
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V. Royal
Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Alyson Michalka, Stanley Tucci
Runtime: 92 minutes