Stories about licentiousness (Easy A movie review)

Olive (great Emma Stone) is a typical introvert from high school – a nice, shy girl that remains unnoticeable for those who create a popular part of student community. One Monday morning the protagonist’s friend asks her about last weekend and Olive makes up a hot story about incredible, intense time with her new adorer instead of saying that she was at home and hasn’t done anything cooler than singing loud favourite songs. Marianne (Amanda Bynes), who is a very popular girl, surrounded by her faithful funs and followers – overhears that conversation and spreads the gossip to everyone that she sees. Olive, who for the first time in her life experiences being in the centre of attention, discovers charms of being visible and decides to use the gossip to increase her popularity. As it’s easy to guess – what in the beginning seems to be a great idea that has no disadvantages, leads the protagonist to many complications and make her rethink twice her new self. “Easy A”, directed by Will Glick, is a romantic comedy that also has a potential of becoming a pretty sharp satire on social structures that are still being constituted by patriarchal outlook that divides women into two categories – saints and whores.

The creators of the movie make their intentions very clear, so the audience doesn’t participate in the intertextual game with references. Olive and their class read “The Scarlet Letter”, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which is a criticism of puritanical England. Its main character, Hester Pyrne, conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life that won’t be deprived of dignity and full of repentance. The old book becomes a frame for a story of intolerance and hypocrisy in an American high school, which can be treated as a synecdoche of conservative morality.

High school in “Easy A” is presented as a terrifying, oppressive space in which acceptance is given only to those who represent wildly understood normativity – if there is anything strange or different about you and your sexuality, you will be pushed away to the margin; school doesn’t like its Others. Marianne is a grotesque embodiment of that this system – she is a leader of a school society of young Christians, but also a girl that spreads gossips and who uses weapons of symbolical violence to punish those who don’t belong to her world.

What’s interesting, the director doesn’t focus on the radical views of students, but on their parents and teachers who raise the kids up saying them to don’t protect what makes them different than others, but to try to become similar to the normative majority that owns power and the rights to be visible, heard, respected.

Olive is presented as a harlot (or rather as someone who pretends to be a harlot) and the story is concentrated around sex (more often imaginary than real), but the movie is pretty subtle – you won’t find in here dirty, cheap scenes or loathsome gags. Its strength lies in lively action and brilliant dialogues that are based on sharp ripostes, but, despite of its potential and charm, “Easy A” is not a very good movie. The biggest problem is that the director, when trying to put stereotypes in a crooked mirror and make fun out of them, is composing his story of nothing but different stereotypes: pastor is a haunted pervert that likes to watch naked girls online, school director is conservative and naïve, and Olive’s liberal parents are incredibly understanding, emphatic, and cool. In a presented world that is made of obviousness and black and white character even the funniest moments and the strongest satirical scenes are losing their power.