Easy A

My relationship to teen comedies has always been rather similar to my relationship to the South Pole. Broadly speaking, I’m glad it’s there and I’m sure it serves a purpose, but I have no particular urge to go visiting any time soon. However, despite my general indifference towards the genre, there are nonetheless a few films that transcend their generic barriers and become something a bit special. I’m thinking of Heathers, Clueless, Ten Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls and the latest addition to their ranks, Easy A, which somewhat surprisingly is one of the funniest and most enjoyable comedies of the year.

The witty and subversive script by the hitherto little known Bert V Royal (a pseudonym?!) bears roughly the same relation to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter that Clueless does to Emma and that TTIHAY does to The Taming Of The Shrew, i.e passing allusions that will amuse the literarily inclined rather than a close adaptation. Olive (Emma Stone) leads a nondescript life in a Californian high school, where her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) is a boy-obsessed moron who takes it as a compliment to be told that her nickname ‘bits’ stands for ‘big tits’ and where her oh-so-liberal and cool parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) seem vaguely concerned by her unadventurous life. Until, that is, she tells Rhiannon a fanciful story about losing her virginity, and complications ensue, not least the school’s evangelical Christian sect led by the hypocritical Marianne (Amanda Bynes) attempting to trigger her expulsion for being, in their charming terms, a skank. But if you’re going to be called a whore, why not flaunt it?

To say much more might be to spoil much of the fun. While the eventual trajectory is inevitably predictable (it’s a teen rom-com – did you expect Leaving Las Vegas?) there’s a huge amount of enjoyment to be had along the way, because of Stone’s genuinely likeable and sympathetic performance, anchoring a character who might have been Juno-levels arch in recognisable humanity. From the first line – ‘rumours of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated’ – you know that this is going to be an unusually literate piece of work, and so it proves. Virtually every character has at least one laugh-out-loud funny line, of which my favourite is Malcolm McDowell’s harassed headmaster saying ‘This is public school! If I can keep the girls off the pole and the boys off the pipe, I get a bonus!’ It’s a long, long way from If…

There’s too much amusing stuff to document, but every single scene involving either Tucci or Clarkson is comic gold, mainly because it’s two great actors given superb parts and allowed to be warm and sympathetic as well as somewhat…eccentric. (There’s a line that Tucci delivers to their adopted son which is far, far too good to be spoilt by being repeated out of context.)  Personally I’d happily watch a sitcom just about this remarkable family, and I suppose that’s a testament to the excellence of the acting and writing. But it isn’t all warm and fuzzy – a subplot involving sympathetic English teacher Mr Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) and his guidance councillor wife (Lisa Kudrow) is remarkably unsentimental and clear-sighted.

I enjoyed this film tremendously. I wouldn’t argue that it’s a classic of the cinema, but I’ve certainly laughed more in it than in any teen comedy than for years. And, in passing, it’s great to see the sort of loathsome and hypocritical ‘Christianity’ that I’ve always despised get a really, really good comic kicking.

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