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Stone charms in ‘Easy A’

Brandy Cerne | Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Any reputation is better than no reputation. Or at least high school student Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) thinks so. Fed up with being unknown in her high school, she decides to take advantage of a rumor so that her fellow students will finally know who she is. Now, most people would not want the identity she receives, but Olive doesn’t just accept her role. She embraces it wholeheartedly, at least on the surface, in “Easy A,” directed by Will Gluck.

After Holy Roller Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears and spreads a false story of how Olive lost her virginity, Olive is both shocked and pleased to be the talk of the school, even if the subject matter is her promiscuity. The source of her newfound reputation? She agreed to help out a gay friend who is continually picked on by pretending to sleep with him.

What starts as a favor turns into a small business — guys are allowed to say they hooked up with Olive if they pay her with various gift cards. She does not actually do anything physical with them, but the whole school believes she does.

Olive takes inspiration from her English class, where the current book assignment is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” She buys a whole new wardrobe of corset tops, skinny black jeans and heels and sews a red “A” onto all her shirts.

At times it can be confusing as to why Olive would take this persona so far. Maybe she just enjoys being talked about at all, or she may just enjoy annoying the overly pious Marianne and her Christian group of friends, even causing them to bring protest signs to school.

It is easy to overlook Olive’s questionable actions and flimsy plot motives because of the charm of “Easy A,” and above all, star Emma Stone. Stone makes every line shine with a wit that is becoming rare with the onslaught of pretty but dull 20-something actresses. Audiences will leave the film wanting to be friends with her and wondering why Olive was so invisible to begin with. Stone deserves to land quality films in the future, and she is already attached to the big-screen adaptation of the bestseller “The Help.” She transforms slightly better than average material into gold in “Easy A,” with some help from her castmates.

The rest of the cast is fleshed out with plenty of familiar faces. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play the outstanding supporting roles of Olive’s hip parents, making every scene they are in a highlight of “Easy A.” Grossly under-utilized, Lisa Kudrow has a small role as Olive’s guidance counselor, which is mostly devoid of laughs. Penn Badgley adequately takes on the role of Olive’s Jake Ryan-esque crush, which is appropriate considering there is a whole scene of Olive wishing her life was more like a John Hughes film.

While it is an enjoyable, funny high school comedy skewering the ludicrousness of reputations and the rumor mill, “Easy A” is no “Mean Girls.” The film presents plenty of humorous one-liners, but it has a much smaller scope. Olive’s dilemma is not as relatable to the majority of people’s high school experiences as in past high school set classics such as the aforementioned “Mean Girls” and John Hughes films. Still, it offers a funny and honest portrayal of the dissemination of information among teenagers, and is worth seeing if for nothing else than the hilarious performances by Stone, Tucci and Clarkson.