Piss-your-pants funny, witty, occassionally smart, even downright clever in parts and led by an intelligent, versatile young comedienne, Easy A is an oddity as both a Hollywood studio comedy and a film about high school. And, as a rarity in today's film landscape, a film like Easy A is bound to be praised for things it simply isn't. Much like Drew Barrymore's Whip It! last year, another slightly uneven film celebrated for its "girl power" while majore problems were ignored, Easy A gets a lot right but also fails (miserably, in some regards) in portions. Right from the get go, the first of Easy A's problems rears its ugly little head: that voiceover. Granted, some viewers may find its self-consciousness and constant calling of attention to itself, as in the many instances where Emma Stone brings up some high school movie cliché and then reassures the audience that this movie is not like that at all refreshing and engaging. But nothing irritates me more than when writing is too clever for its own good. It's so post-modern it makes me want to puke. Diablo Cody is able to find a nice balance, miraculously, between quirk and character; narration like that in Easy A or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was similarly self-conscious and smug, are simply too clever for their own good.
Along those same lines, halfway through the film, Easy A decides that it wants to become a tribute to the legacy of John Hughes' films. That's all fine and dandy, even if the whole conceit is a little on-the-nose and dubious to begin with, but the way it is introduced makes no sense. It's as if halfway through writing the script, the screenwriters realized something was missing and thought that the answer was more pop culture referencing. And if you're going to make a pop culture reference in a high school movie, it has to be about the films of John Hughes. Easy A makes a grand issue out of Emma Stone's character wanting her life to emulate Sixteen Candles but, honestly, it doesn't need it.
Finally, and most glaringly, Easy A can't decide whether or not it wants to condemn Emma Stone's character for her sexual "exploits" or celebrate her for daring to flaunt them in front of the entire school. At some points in the film, Easy A wants Emma's character to be a hero for the way she defies the social norm that, as Lil' Kim best described, "If a guy has two girls than he's the man/But if a girl does the same than she's a whore." When she emblazons that scarlet A on her clothes, she wears it with pride as she walks down the hallway. On the other hand, Easy A also wants her to be thought of as the bad guy for taking charge of her sexuality, even though it's a complete lie. Just when you think Easy A is ready to make a decision, whether or not it's the right decision, the film oscillates to the other side as quickly as it can. The film may think it's indecision is saying something profound, but it becomes a major problem.
This isn't to say that the film is a complete failure. On the contrary, actually. Easy A has some hilarious moments and an incredibly game cast who does wonders with their characters. Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Penn Badgley (who instantly reminded me why I fell in love with him during the first season of Gossip Girl here), in particular, were stand outs among the supporting cast. But the true star of the film is, of course, Emma Stone, proving once and for all to all the skeptics that after playing the sidekick to Jonah Hill, Jesse Eisenberg and Anna Faris, she is a legitimate leading lady. She's Lindsay Lohan without an ounce of shame or the apprehension that mars her best work (Mean Girls, obviously). Whether she's singing obnoxiously to 'Pocketful of Sunshine,' trading one-liners with Penn, conversing with her folks, pretending she's a Tennessee Williams heroine or pretending to have sex with a gay man, Stone is a fearless comedienne and an absolute joy to watch. Here's hoping the rumor that she's up for the female lead in the Spider-Man reboot with Andy Garfield (!!!) is true; if those two are together, I may actually be legitimately excited for that film. B-