Regardless of where you grew up, there is one universal truth that applies to pretty much everyone; high school is a bastard. No one is really happy or accepted, except maybe a select few who flourish. But even for them, it can be a hard, unforgiving experience that hopefully teaches some valuable lessons that we carry through life.
The torturous social quagmire that high school often houses is at the core of Easy A.
Starring Emma Stone as Olive Penderghast, Easy A is about a girl who has erroneously gained the worst of reputations and is now suffering a good old fashioned high school slut shaming at the hands of school’s conservative church group. Olive’s best friend Brandon explains that he’s gay and being bullied by their peers. She agrees to put her false reputation to good use and pretend she’s slept with him to help him gain acceptance, then starts doing the same for other guys in the school to help them improve their reputations in exchange for different forms of payment. Naturally, the whole thing gets well out of her control.
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Easy A is a modern adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, similar in style to the way Ten Things I Hate About You adapted Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. It also derives a lot of inspiration from the work of John Hughes, the master of angst-ridden high school comedies. Specifically, there are more than a few subtle nods to the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
John Hughes serves as good inspiration for this film. He had the ability to tackle the pain and anxiety of high school through his films in an engaging, witty and comedic style that Easy A quite deftly accomplishes.
It’s an adaptable narrative, moving between drama and comedy quite successfully. This is important as it tackles a number of difficult issues prevalent in high schools but presents them well. First and foremost is the act of slut shaming that happens all too frequently, a concept that is core to The Scarlet Letter. Gay students being tormented by their peers for being “different” is also a key part of this plot as it drives Olive’s decision to defend her friend. Ultimately, both are disturbing forms of bullying that Olive comes head-to-head with and chooses to tackle in her own defiant style at the cost of her reputation and self-respect.
While the entire cast is quite outstanding, Emma Stone turns in a stellar performance as Olive. She captures the brilliance and vulnerability of the character perfectly, showing us Olive’s strengths and weaknesses. It is Olive’s decision to throw herself on the proverbial sword for others that puts her in such a self-destructive position. Following her path out of the role she has cast for herself is both entertaining and enlightening.
This is a comedy, and a funny one at that, but it’s also a poignant story about the difficulties faced in the corridors of today’s high schools. Very few people would be able to watch this film and not find something to relate to.
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