Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rumor Has It: EASY A

Easy A is jet-propelled by so much comedic energy that it’s perhaps inevitable that the stress from the sheer force of hilarity would start to pull it apart by the conclusion. Luckily, the film never quite falls apart. In fact, it’s the most consistently funny movie I’ve seen in a long time and easily the funniest movie of the year by far. It’s blessed with a great leading leady in Emma Stone, the gorgeous and uproarious redhead best known for stealing scenes as a supporting character in comedies like Superbad and Zombieland. Here she becomes a star, holding a whole movie exceptionally well, appearing in every scene and serving as our narrator. She’s fortunate to be carrying a movie that’s perfectly cast in every role, with characters being funny because of who they are in addition to what they do. This is the rare comedy that is completely hilarious in nearly every scene, often funny line by line. I rarely laugh out loud while watching movies; I usually end up enjoying funny moments with small snickers or smiles. Reader, Easy A had me laughing loudly and often. By the time the credits rolled, my face and sides were hurting.

That all of this hilarity ensues in a broad teen comedy that also happens to deal fairly honestly with teenagers’ fluidity of identity and basic rumor-fueled exaggerated life-and-death scenarios of high school is only icing on the cake. It all starts when Stone lies to her best friend (Alyson Michalka) about what she did on the weekend. She should have been honest and said that she barely left her room. Instead, since she had turned down an invitation from said friend to go camping, she lies and says that she had a one-night-stand with a college guy and lost her virginity. Unfortunately, the school’s biggest self-important gossipy do-gooder (Amanda Bynes) overhears them and soon the whole school thinks that Stone’s a floozy.

The plot goes on to feature an escalation of ridiculous rumors that Stone tries to harness for her own personal gain. She trades her increasingly terrible reputation for favors, though at first it’s simple charity, like when she pretends to sleep with a gay classmate (Dan Byrd) at a wild party so that the jocks will think he’s straight and stop beating him up. Later, she will have less noble reasons, like gift cards, for continuing the charade, all the while risking that the one guy she really likes (Penn Badgley) will no longer want to have anything to do with her, especially with their increasingly scandalized (or envious) and increasingly boisterous schoolmates, including Twilight’s Cam Gigandet showing off surprising comedic talent.

Bert V. Royal’s script is overflowing with great one-liners and the supporting cast has uniformly impeccable timing. These lines flow right off the performers’ tongues, barely letting in spaces between the laughs. On staff at the high school is English teacher Thomas Hayden Church, guidance counselor Lisa Kudrow, and, most chillingly, principal Malcolm McDowell. As Stone’s parents, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, both fine, versatile actors, present the rare teen-comedy parents that are smart, funny, and accessible. They are involved in their daughter’s life, are warm, loving, and energetic. They sometimes say embarrassing things and fumble around while trying to give advice, but they very well may be the best screen parents of the year.

This film is a big step up for director Will Gluck, who was last seen with his feature debut, last year’s truly awful teen comedy Fired Up. With Easy A, Gluck has created a very good teen comedy. It just might, though it’s a little hard to tell from one viewing, belong on the short list of great teen comedies. It’s right up there with, and sometimes besting, some of the works of John Hughes, which this film occasionally references. Gluck shoots with effervescent energy and style that ultimately works towards setting up the jokes. He knows just when to punch up a laugh line or get out of his performers’ way. Neither he, nor Royal, ever finds a convincing way to reconcile the film’s competing tendencies towards winking snark and sappy sentiment. Nor does the film’s narration, built around a webcam confessional, ever truly pay off in any big way. But I hardly care. Those are just the kinds of nagging quibbles that happen when I’m too far removed from the constant blasts of pure laughter the film provides.

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