Actress Emma Stone made her movie debut in Superbad, as the girlfriend of one of the main characters. It was a small part, and relatively subdued, but it still brought her lots of attention. Now she's got the starring role in the teen comedy Easy A, a film tailored to her talents and designed to let her shine.
Olive, her character, is a great kid: smart, smart-alecky and confident enough to not worry too much about her reputation when her best friend comes to her with a proposition. He's being bullied at school for being less than macho, and he thinks maybe if they're seen out and about together, they can put that issue to bed. She waffles, he puts on puppy eyes, she folds, and together they hatch a plan: At a party, they will fake -- loudly, behind a locked door -- a deflowering scene that'll make him seem like the class stud.
Suddenly, Brandon's rep is great; no more bullying. Problem is, this little exploit gives Olive a rep, too -- at school, where the rumor mill has pretty much everyone (especially the abstinence evangelists) calling Olive a tramp, and even at home, where her parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) kind of see through the ruse, but only kind of.
Olive tackles all this with a sense of humor at first, but soon the joke wears thin, and you can see we're headed straight into Breakfast Club-meets-Sixteen Candles territory. Except that director Will Gluck and his screenwriters have something a little snarkier in mind: they're doing a satirical take on appearances and moralizing that takes its cues from novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. And the bright red A Olive sews onto her bodice proves just as attention-getting as you'd expect.
Now, Easy A -- that title's a nice pun, no? -- doesn't take its literary notions as far as, say, the teen flick Clueless, which was an actual adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. This film just uses The Scarlet Letter as a jumping-off point, and more or less abandons the connection in the last half-hour or so.
But in most high-school comedies, the high jinks tend to be so lowbrow that even a nod in a literary direction deserves extra credit. And when that nod comes in a picture as witty and as smartly cast as Easy A, the temptation to grade on a curve is overwhelming.