Last night, I was flipping through channels and caught Easy A. You may remember it as that movie where Emma Stone pretends to have sex with a gay dude and then references The Scarlet Letter a lot. While I'm not usually the chick flick type of person, I am generally curious about movies that play with classic literature, even when said classic literature is something as godawful as The Scarlet Letter.
Dear god, I hate this book.
But enough about my tenth grade English class flashbacks, let's talk about the movie.
The story, as you may have guessed, is a modern retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's
bullshit drivel beloved classic, The Scarlet Letter. It's set in a high school, where a girl who Hollywood thinks is plain and uninteresting-looking tells a lie to a friend. The lie escalates until the entire school is convinced that she's a major slut.Olive embraces her new persona, and even starts accepting money to tell everyone that she slept with various people, until things start going to shit and she is in over her head.
The story is framed by the main character, Olive, vlogging her story as she explains her side of the story, telling how the lie started, and how it continued. She narrates the story in a dry, witty tone that I found fairly enjoyable. The story is loaded with interesting plot points and characters, most of whom I'm probably going to skip over. Blah blah blah, summary summary. Got it?
A quick note: this movie seems to be founded on a vision of high school that is completely alien from my high school experience, which may have ruined my immersion somewhat. In the school of the movie, gossip spreads like wildfire, sex is treated as such a fantastically huge deal that, well, that this plot could happen at all, and gay kids are bullied badly enough that, well, that this plot could happen at all. Can I just say that I'm really glad I never went to a school like this?
For the purposes of this review, I'm going to assume that my high school was extremely atypical and move on.
Okay, up front, I've got a couple problems with this movie. For one thing, the love interest feels extremely tacked-on. This is odd, seeing as he's actually fairly important to the plot. I think if he'd been given a more prominent role in the first two thirds of the film, he might have seemed to fit better with the rest. That's just my subjective feeling, though. I tend to have a lower-than-average tolerance for romantic subplots.
Next, the character of Brandon seems fairly conflicted. Brandon, for those of you who haven't seen the film, is a gay kid who asks Olive to pretend to have sex with him so that he can pretend to be straight. This despite the fact that he seemed fairly against the idea of trying to hide his sexuality in the first couple scenes. Really, it seemed like the writers weren't sure what to do with the character. He was mostly there just to get the plot rolling and act as the punchline to an (admittedly pretty funny) brick joke. He generally felt like a bit of a one-note character, which is a pity because I would've liked to see more of him.
One-note characters seem to abound in this story, like Rhiannon, the hyper-Christian nutcase who acts judgmental and vindictive. Really, that was her entire goddamn character. They tried to give her some deeper characterization somewhere around the end of act two, but it fell pretty flat in my opinion. Also featured are the guidance counselor who is unhappy with her marriage and some fat nerdy loser character. I didn't bother to remember their names.
A few problems aside, though, this really is a movie to surprise you. It's standard fare in a lot of ways, but in other ways it's pretty unique and innovative. And, refreshingly, the moral of the story is not for or against sex, but rather takes the stance that other people's sex lives are none of our goddamn business. And really, isn't that a moral that we can all agree with?
Somewhat ironically, I give Easy A a solid B-minus.