Easy A tries hard to be a John Hughes movie. It’s about a rich white girl with a pretty face and red hair who inexplicably doesn’t have very many friends, but gets the boy of her chaste dreams in the end. Olive (Emma Stone, who looks like Lindsay Lohan crossed with a cat), Easy A‘s rich white protagonist, even tells us in her not unbearable voiceover that she wishes her life were more like a Hughes movie. That’s fine: whether we are rich white girls or not, we all want a happy ending for ourselves. The problem with Easy A is that writer-director Will Gluck wishes his film were a Hughes movie for the new millennium, apparently not realizing that John Hughes movies suck.
To summarize the film (if you don’t care to watch the trailer above): Olive is a nobody at school (the first of the movie’s several credulity-straining plot points, given Stone’s foxy looks) with a normal teenage life and a normal wardrobe full of normal clothes. Her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) invites her over for the weekend, but Olive doesn’t want to spend time with Rhiannon’s weirdo parents, so she says she has a date. On Monday morning, Olive reports to Rhiannon that she had (fake) sex on her (fake) date (long story) — and the rumor spreads around school, largely via Christian slut-shamer Marianne (a newly Oompa-Loompa’d Amanda Bynes). No press is bad press, or so Olive thinks, embracing her new identity as the sexy girl who has had sex. Then a second (truthful) rumor starts trailing Olive — that she’ll take money from unpopular boys — the gay kid, the fatso, the unfortunate of face — in exchange for letting them say she did things with them too, which Olive only agrees to because she feels sorry for them. But when the boy Olive has crushed on for years finally starts paying attention to her, her bad reputation becomes a liability.
I wanted to like Easy A; I really did. Teen comedies aren’t usually my thing, but the story is pretty original, and offers a modest feminist revision of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Stone has a wonderfully elastic face and great comic timing, and carries the film ably. Stanley Tucci, who plays Olive’s dad, has been amazing in everything recently, including here. Patricia Clarkson and Thomas Haden Church are surprisingly funny as Olive’s mom and English teacher, respectively. The younger actors who play Olive’s friends and enemies are forgettable but competent. Lisa Kudrow, in a small but important role, is as shrill and grating as ever, but forgivable at least in this movie, given the awfulness of her character.
What ultimately sinks Easy A is its utter unbelievability. As my viewing partner stated, the film’s depiction of adolescence reads like a slightly alarmist Time Magazine article about high school life in 2010: nobody studies, technology is ubiquitous, and the dividing line between Queen Bees and Wannabes determines cafeteria culture. All of the teen characters are very obviously played by twentysomething actors, and nobody has acne. Olive is free to strut around school in skin-tight corsets and six-inch heels without any of the adults around her (parents, teachers, school administrators) saying a word. She’s capable of choreographing and pulling off an impromptu musical number in the middle of a pep rally in panties and stockings in front of the whole school. And Her Motormouthiness is smart enough to “talk like an adult,” but not enough to care whether she gets expelled or not.
I’ll suspend my disbelief when Olive is suspended for her idiotic shenanigans: NEVER.