Monday, 14 May 2012

Easy A (2010, Will Gluck)

This kooky coming of age tale charting one girls' manipulation of the high school gossip chain, is a mixed bag of results never flatlining due to the alluring charms of its leading lady. It operates on multiple levels; as a postmodern take on the high school movie, a fitting sociological commentary on the Facebook/blogger generation, and depicting the damages of modern celebrity. Thanks to Bert V. Royal's sassy smart script and the charisma of one Emma Stone, Easy A is a successful and engrossing comedy that often verges into satirical territory, bringing to mind Election (1999).

Olive (Stone) is a your typical high school girl, an outsider, never part of the in-crowds and cliques; she knows this all too well and her knowingness hangs over much of the film's declaration. Olive (like those behind the film) understand the rules and regulations of not only high school, but the high school movie genre. There is to a point, a theme of life imitating art and vice versa and so on that runs through the film's core. But despite the nostalgic wishing for the 80s films of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, there's a modern twist that goes beyond a hankering for the past, this is 2010 and the rules have changed. Olive at first learns out to play them to her advantage but gets more than she bargained for as events spiral out of control.

Olive's rather unlikeable best friend backs her into a corner one day, instead of admitting that she lied about how she spent her weekend she decides to lie again, that she lost her virginity. She's telling her friend what she wants to hear and is almost guided into it by her friend's brash intimidating ways. Olive soon realises that news travels fast and before long the whole school knows of her deflowering, at first embarrassed she soon sees a positive transition in her life. Whereas before she was a ghost walking the corridors, now the whole school knows her name, this tall tale of hers has given her strange recognition.

This new found fame is capitalised by Olive, seeing it as harmless self promotion she spreads more rumours as she gets offers from male peers saying they'll pay her to just say they'd hooked up. All seeming harmless at first but her easy time at the top can't last as her infamy implodes causing damage to her life as well as others around her. At one point favourite teacher Mr. Griffith says, "I don't know what your generation's fascination is with documenting your every thought , I can assure you they're not all diamonds". With social networking it's clear how these rumours travelled so fast, harldy needing much help in the past but with new technology gossip is now rocket fuelled. Olive's short lived fame represents the unhealthy representation of today's celebrity, people desperate for fame at any cost for. Andy Warhol couldn't have been more prophetic when he stated in 1968 that, "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes". 

One of Olive's rumours was started out of need for a friend, gay friend Brandon. Sick of being tormented each day for his sexual orientation, he begs Olive to say they slept together and they plan to make it somewhat of an event at a popular house party. His begging of Olive to help create this false persona is a reminder of how restrictive and damaging school can be, suffocating self expression and creating often life long insecurities. Through are current world of Twitter and followers, people like to pretend to an extent in their own celebrity, that people care about what they're thinking, where they're going, and what they even had for lunch. These social tools allow us to project a version of ourself onto the world which doesn't accurately represent us, only how we'd like to be viewed. Brandon's reasoning does a good job in defending exactly why.

Emma Stone is a talent beyond her years, bringing a vibrance and unique quality not found amongst actresses of her age. Her unconventional Hollywood beauty along with her unashamed style of performance makes for a duly refreshing actress, a pleasure to behold for every minute we're granted. Olive is unsure of herself yet strong when she needs to be, she's learning as she goes along, like we all have to at that age. Any poor decisions are forgiven as it eats away at her conscience while struggling to do the right thing, desperate to survive the "hell hole" that is high school.

A fine supporting cast makes for mostly positive effects; Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are Olive's brilliantly exuberant parents, breathing further life into an already lively film. Although the representation of the school's hypocritical Christian group is unfairly misguided, what's at first playful becomes insistent and immovably unfair. A side story involving Mr. and Mrs. Griffith's marriage is also awkwardly tagged on and feels ultimately forced. 

These are just slight qualms in a film that manages confidently and competently to reach its goals, even leaving extra room for further thought. By the end, as Olive gets to live the 80s movie moments she so desperately wanted, we have to wonder whether we got ours too. If Easy A wasn't prepared to give us a feel good blast from the past, it delivers a strong and witty reminder of age old adolescent dilemmas as well as newly formed ones, and that's good enough.