Any movie that persuades teens to read more of The Scarlet Letter than the title deserves kudos.
In Easy A, directed by Will Gluck, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) embroiders a red “A” onto her clothes, just like Hester in The Scarlet Letter, to represent her promiscuity.
However, unlike Hester, Olive did not have an actual affair–her tarnished reputation resulted from a rumor gone too far.
Olive is introduced as a quirky personality who goes mostly unnoticed. She spends her weekends singing along to audio Hallmark cards and conversing with her hippy parents. Only until she is overheard embellishing her weekend to her friend, Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka), does she gain recognition among her peers.
Marianne (Amanda Bynes), a self-proclaimed Jesus-freak, eavesdrops on the friends’ conversation only to discover that Olive “had sex” with a college boy. She spreads the story throughout the school, and by the end of the day Olive is the class slut.
Despite Marianne’s conviction that Olive is doomed to a fiery hell for her sins, Olive did not actually sleep with the said college boy. She tries to explain the mistake to Marianne, attempting to right the misunderstanding, but Marianne refuses to believe her.
Soon after, Brandon (Dan Byrd), a homosexual boy tormented by his peers, asks Olive for a favor. He requests that she pretend to sleep with him in order to create a straight persona. Olive agrees and launches a business of fake affairs. This method is successful for the sexual underdogs of Ojai High, but dooms Olive to skankdom.
For a while the gossip does not seem to bother Olive; she struts down the hallways with “Poker Face” blaring in the background, confidence radiating from her skimpy outfits and biting wit.
However, after a certain boy takes her “business” too far and tries to exchange a Best Buy giftcard for actual sex, Olive breaks. She realizes the extent to her actions, and the lightheartedness of the movie vanishes.
Any good chick flick though, has an attractive male lead to save the day, and Easy A is no exception. Todd (Penn Badgley) helps Olive to set up a “grande finale” at the school pep rally to advertise a web-show narrating her story from beginning to end (the movie begins in media res, so the web-cast is really just what the audience has been watching the whole time) and revealing the truth.
After the web-cast she rides into the distance with Todd on the back of a lawnmower, a Can’t Buy Me Love fantasy, with the Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” melody in the California backdrop.
Despite this somewhat cheesy ending, I thoroughly enjoyed Easy A. Critics have dubbed Easy A as a mediocre film, salvaged only by Emma Stone’s performance and a few good punchlines. The punchlines though, left me laughing all the way home from the theater, and even more once I arrived home and re-watched the clips online.
Though the movie did not fully develop the parallel with the Scarlet Letter, it did enough to cast interest, leaving the rest of Hawthorne’s novel out (which was probably a good thing due to the popularity of the novel). But a movie encouraging one to read literature, now that’s just a good film.
Overall, Easy A was breezy, full of laughter and cleverness–mostly on Emma Stone’s part. Although Olive’s relation with her parents and miraculous reputation rap-up was unrealistic, I still enjoyed the movie. Even though many would classify Easy A as a comedic chick flick, it was still thought-provoking, challenging viewers to question society’s view on sex. Easy A treated sex lightheartedly, and as a joke for a majority of the movie–much like society does. Sex is not a big deal in modern culture, and it was not a big deal in Easy A.
Towards the end of the movie though, this idea of sex shifted. Olive changed her mind, she didn’t like being perceived as a floozy, even if it was pretend. She made no judgement as to whether sex was okay (which I’m sure upset Marianne) but concluded that it is “nobody’s business.”
It would be easy to not talk about sex. A sometimes uncomfortable subject, many would find an open sexual forum inappropriate. In this way, Easy A, is edgy–detailing the story of, in extreme terms, a teenage prostitute. With a character like Olive, there is potential to offend, but in that potential lies an even larger opportunity, a chance to make a statement. Easy A went out of the public comfort zone and brought attention to an issue that society treats more lightly than it should. Easy A does not aim to prove that sex should not be discussed (despite the danger of gossip demonstrated in the film), but that it holds more weight than pop culture conveys.
Today, sex is a spectacle and is ubiquitous in the media. Easy A shows the danger of a public sex life, and challenges the audience not to disregard this taboo subject, but rather to retain a sense of privacy regarding sex. Olive put out her pseudo-sex life in order to gain attention. She realized though that notoriety was worse than anonymity. She realized that she finally had to turn the web-cam off.
So for those who said that Easy A was just a hollow chick flick, I say look closer—because beneath every scarlet letter A, is a story worth telling.