Monday, December 6, 2010

EASY A (2010)

Gossip spreads in mysterious ways.

Every new layer a story takes on in a chain of mythologizing tells you a lot about the person in the chain. The final story in the web, if there ever is a final story, is often an astonishingly full-bodied narrative, a collective community's story, spun out of only the thinnest of initial truths.

Easy A gives us a premise where that initial truth itself is a, well, lie. Out of that lie spins a story, a mythology around a seemingly ordinary high school girl (if you discount the fact that she's on the right side of gorgeous, and one of the smartest non-geek characters to grace teenage comedy) who finds herself in a parallel modern version of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Only, she's in here completely of her own volition, and decides to tackle it with her incandescent sense of humour.

Notice I'm being vague about the plot : you'll thank me after you watch the movie. The joys of Easy A are in watching how one little lie not only takes on a life of its own, but also transforms the lives of people around it in unpredictable ways. There was an uncomfortable feeling I got in the first 5 minutes of this at-first-glance-seemingly-banal teen comedy. I couldn't quite figure it out, but a few more minutes down the line, I got it.

I was watching an astonishingly good movie.

No seriously - it shocked me how refreshingly good, smart, and well made this movie was. To put it another way - its Juno, but actually, truly delivering on the promise, as opposed to shyly hinting at it. What brings it all together is one of the most important star making performances I've seen in cinema ever since Carey Mulligan decided she was too good for Oxford in An Education.

Emma Stone as Olive Penderghast is an absolute revelation, no two ways about it. There is an electric energy about this character, an infectious spirit that grabs you from the get go. Even the slightest of exchanges are often transformed into crackling comic pearls. She's supported by the possibly the best movie parents ever to be encountered : catch Stanley Tucci's line reading of "I was gay once too" or Olive's mother informing a classmate -"Oh any friend of Olive's is a friend of our daughter's". Cliches and tropes are brought up, to be tossed aside in amusing ways.

Of course, being confined to the structure of a teenage high school comedy, Easy A is unable to completely escape the trappings of the genre. There remain some broadly sketched characterizations that aren't all that succesful, the third act loses some of the zippy energy that preceded it - but these are nitpickings really.

Easy A is the rare kind of teen comedy that actually has something interesting to say. With a character as winning as Olive Penderghast saying it, the movie is easily propelled to rank amongst the best of its genre.

An Easy A grade to this one.

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