Easy A blatantly acknowledges the genius behind the teen comedies of John Hughes, but doesn’t seem to realize that mimicry alone can’t recreate the magic. A heavily modernized teen comedy paralleling The Scarlet Letter, Easy A retains the saucily colorful high school lexicon, the improbable adults, and the overly mature girls that are staples of the genre, yet the realism becomes lost in the examination. Unfolding like a reverse Mean Girls, Easy A scrutinizes the effects of ostracism rather than the difficulties of fitting in, and because of this, the stage is set for several unbelievable twists and a few out-of-place shocks. Emma Stone capably fills her role though she’s virtually alone, and not just due to her character’s outcast status. Few of her supporting cast members manage any laughs on their own save for the adults who maintain an audience only for their eccentricities rather than their weakly wrought life lessons.
High school student Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) finds herself the victim of her school’s “rumor mill” when she lies to her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about a weekend tryst with a fictional college freshman. Word quickly spreads of Olive’s sexual indiscretion and, much to her surprise, she welcomes the attention. When she agrees to help out a bullied friend by pretending to sleep with him, her image rapidly degrades to a more lascivious state and her world begins to spin out of control. As she helps more and more of her classmates with the “let’s not and say we did” routine, her lies continuing to escalate, Olive must find a way to save face before the school’s religious fanatic Marianne (Amanda Bynes) gets her expelled and she loses a shot at attaining her own happiness.
Like many teen comedies, Easy A doesn’t know who it wants to appeal to. Based on the main character, you’d expect a largely feminine approach – but many of Olive’s decisions seem founded on the ideology of men. She also has intelligence beyond her years, using phrases like “terminological inexactitude,” and creating visual symbolism from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, striking a weighty contrast to the promiscuous image she’s trying to uphold. Through clips of John Hughes’ films, we see her desire to live life like a 1980s comedy and Easy A’s aspiration to be reminiscent of such works. Despite completely fantastical elements like a splashy dance number in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the characters are still believable – Olive and her friends and family are never once convincingly eccentric, regardless of unreal, fourth-wall-breaking actions. And lastly, but most significantly, many of the conflicts in the film arise from very mature situations, which weaken the humor found in surrounding events. Are we supposed to laugh or cry? The original R-rated script, with its greater use of harsh dialogue, might have been even more off-putting, further obscuring the target audience.
Olive’s parents are witty, sarcastic and overly happy, never discipline her, and give her space to be independent – just like Cady’s family in Mean Girls. Olive speaks openly with her vulgarity-spewing best friend, much like the lead characters in Superbad (her goal of having a reputation and seeking attention, regardless of whether it’s derived from bad publicity, can also be compared to Fogell’s hopes of appearing mature). The story is full of details that are derivative of recent young-adult comedies, preventing the few unique aspects, such as the idea of a verbal pseudo prostitute and a slutty alter ego purposely ruining a high school girl’s reputation (which is not quite as developed as Youth in Revolt).
Since she’s never shown starved for attention or losing face in front of the boy she’s always admired (Penn Badgely), it’s never explained why she would want a bad reputation in the first place. Her role could use extra attention, however, considering many of the background characters such as Malcolm McDowell, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson provide more comic relief than the plot. The majority of Easy A is steeped in unrealistic, exaggerated clichés, painting a high school life that will likely be more foreign to teens than the creators would expect.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)