Monday, October 04, 2010

Easy A is Easily Excellent

"Easy A" stars Emma Stone as a would-be harlot that dons a scarlet A after faking her way into high school notoriety. Oh sure, the initial accusation stems from an enemy overhearing a small lie, but she then encourages the rumors and plays to them.

There are two things that stand out – the writing and Ms. Stone.

(a) The writing is absolutely delightful through and through. The verbal repartee is well done and well delivered. There are plenty of witty one-liners and comebacks, quotable to no end. The writing is also self-aware and pays homage to some of the great romcoms, including Say Anything, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, to name a few. One of the nice things is that while the heroine delivers many of these verbal barbs, plenty of the other characters chime in. It's refreshing.

(b) Ms. Stone. Oh my, Ms. Stone. An excellent job acting. She owns the role as it must be owned to successfully sell it. Plus, her outfits are eye-catchingly pleasing. (A hopefully-nice way of saying "o_O".) I've enjoyed her other movies, but it's nice to see her in a leading role and, more importantly, carrying the movie in a spectacular manner.

(c) The other characters deserve a nod, too. This is more in league with the writing, but there really isn't a weak character in the story. Sure, there are minor characters or underdeveloped characters or unexplored ones, but the actors and actresses are great and they all should be background noise around Ms. Stone, which they are. I liked the little touches of characterization that pervade the film, hints of underlying traits and deeper backgrounds.

Notwithstanding the above, there are a few issues with the movie.

(i) The movie doesn't know what it's trying to say. If there had been some bigger message or direction, that would have been nice. In the end, the most you can pull from it is "my sex life is my business"? Or "beware the rumor mill"? Huh? The writer could have imbued the story with something more, but he didn't. And so it languishes, just a bit.

(ii) The lack of a message is further punctuated by the ties to The Scarlet Letter. While I can see the parallels and appreciate that some of the themes are similar, I'm still not sure how they truly mesh. Ostracized by the community, branded a harlot, wearing a scarlet A – fine. But this isn't colonial times and attitudes towards sex have changed since then. I'm not sure how relevant Hawthorne's work remains in view of modern attitudes. And if that is the case, that The Scarlet A is less relevant or at least its message is, then how does the movie develop any of that while retaining the broad ties to Hawthorne's novel? I don't know.

(iii) The ending, as well as other parts of the move, is too neat. There's a bow on the damned thing, and it didn't need one. The movie could have remained a great comedy and been slightly less happy-go-lucky. I have a sneaky suspicion that if the movie had turned slightly darker or been slightly more depressing or slightly less pretty, it could have become one of those amazing underground/cult movies. The potential was there, it just pushed it aside in favor of a mass market happy ending. This also ties in with the message criticism above.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one. I wouldn't say it's a "must see" for anyone and everyone, but it's a well done, well written comedy that keeps you interested. There aren't a ton of twists or surprises, but there's enough there to flush out the story. I would say that if you like romantic comedies or Ms. Stone, check this one out. Definitely worth watching, in the theater or at home.