Since the mid 90s, there’s been precious little in the way of high school movies that can be talked about in the same breath with John Hughes’ iconic work. In fact, on Entertainment Weekly‘s 2006 list of the 50 Best High School Movies Ever, only 3 (Donnie Darko, Mean Girls, and Election) were made after 1995.
Enter Easy A— instantly the smartest, funniest, and sure-to-be-remembered high school movie in years.
Emma Stone (Zombieland) plays Olive Penderghast, a self-proclaimed anonymous high-schooler (“of sound mind and below-average breast size”) in Ojai, California. To get out of a weekend camping trip with best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) and her bohemian hippie family, Olive decides to tell a (seemingly innocuous) little white lie—that she’s got a hot date with a community college guy.
Come Monday, of course, Rhi wants to hear all the details, which leads Olive to tell another (seemingly innocuous) little white lie—that she lost her virginity to said imaginary college boy.
Because this is high school, and because this is the age of Twitter and Facebook, the lie becomes the truth, and it makes the rounds quicker than Olive can blink, and she goes from ‘nobody’ to ‘school floozy’ faster than overnight.
Instead of fighting the rumors, though, Olive decides she actually likes finally being “on the map”. So when her persecuted gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) asks her to fake a one-night stand with him at a weekend party, she reluctantly agrees, and proceeds to end the bullying in a way that everyone clearly (and hilariously) overhears.
Before too long, Olive is channeling 80s-era Madonna, sporting black lace corsets and Wayfarers. She even tacks a red ‘A’ to her chest (Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is, appropriately, the topic du jour in Olive’s English class).
And her, um, charity work begins to take on a life of its own. All of a sudden, every loser, nerd, and fat kid in the school is offering her Best Buy gift cards to have fake sex with them, too. Eventually, of course, the whole thing spirals way further out of control than anyone could have guessed, but by then… it’s too late.
The script, by first-timer Bert V. Royal, is pure comedy goodness—chock-full of hilarious lines that kids will soon be quoting in the halls (if they’re not already). It’s also generously peppered with brilliant scenes, from a great bit centered on Natasha Bedingfield’s infectious ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ to every single scene with Olive’s parents (the incredibly funny Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson).
Extra credit goes to the rest of the supporting cast, including Thomas Haden Church (perfect as Olive’s favorite teacher), Lisa Kudrow (as his wife and the school’s guidance counselor), and Amanda Bynes (as the school’s “stuck-up Jesus freak”).
Ultimately, though, this is twenty-one year old Emma Stone’s show, and she effortlessly establishes herself as a bona fide star. She’s at once charming, funny, and infinitely more likeable than most young actresses working today.
Directed by Will Gluck (Fired Up!), Easy A makes several references to the great 80s high school flicks many of us grew up with. It even throws in some genuine feelings and a healthy dose of teen heartbreak. The movie may not have John Hughes’ name anywhere on it, but it’s just as memorable.
If it were a high school class, it would earn an easy ‘A’, indeed.