Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Easy "A"

Ratings - MPAA (PG-13), USCCB (O), Roger Ebert (3 1/2 stars), Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert's Review -

I confess, I really enjoyed “Easy A,” and for a number of reasons. Yes, this is not a movie to recommend to a child or teenager, if you’re concerned about instilling “a good example” or a “good set of role models” to them. But understanding that _this is a movie_, and arguably, though in a convoluted way _even a morality tale_, it is above all meant to be taken as _untrue_ (and arguably dangerous) but, from a distance, _fun_. How’s that for a disclaimer ;-)

The plot is a comedy of errors which begins on the front steps of school one sunny Monday morning, when high school student Olive (played marvelously by Emma Stone) lies to her best-friend Rhiannon about how she spent her weekend. Rather than admit, horror of horrors, that she spent the entire weekend at home studying (rather than coming over to Rhiannon’s house and having to deal with Rhiannon’s oddball still stuck in the ‘60s parents), Olive lies, saying that she went out on Saturday night “with a college boy.” Since the boy was, of course, away at college most of the time, Olive would never ever have to actually present him to Rhiannon or anyone else.

What could go wrong with such a simple white lie? Well the texting driven gossip mill takes over and by the time Olive makes it to her first class that Monday, she’s lost her virginity to that college student. That would not be necessarily the end of the world (especially since it was not true) and the gossip mill would probably be onto something else by lunch break, except that the school finds itself in the midst of a “culture war,” and Olive, who was previously largely “invisible” at school, suddenly becomes a very public “Exhibit A” example of “fallen womanhood” among those who would like to see more righteousness be brought back to the school (the previous year’s campaign resulted in the school’s “blue devil” mascot being replaced by a “woodchuck”).

It turns out that Olive is reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter” in her English class, and since she sees no way to fight her new found reputation (and actually kind of likes it since, as noted , she was previously “invisible”) she decides to start wearing embroidered “A”s on her blouses.

She also finds that with her new “reputation,” she could help a number of the downtrodden ones at her school. Specifically, she helps a gay friend of hers, who’s being harassed at the school for his perceived homosexuality, by very publicly taking him to a room at a party at a friends house and (behind closed doors) loudly _pretending_ to have sex with him. After doing this favor for him as a friend, she soon finds herself effectively running a “fake prostitution” business by allowing a succession of “nerds” (for a price, paid through a succession over ever more outlandish sets of gift cards - to Home Depot, Radio Shack - and coupons to Ralph’s grocery) to _lie_ about _fake_ sexual exploits with her.

Needless to say, it all eventually spins out of control and it has to come to an end, and does so in a dramatic homage to John Hughes and the various teenage dramas and comedies that he produced in the 1970s-1990s. (If you’re appalled by the plot here, how did you feel about Tom Cruise’ role in the movie Risky Business?)

Again, this movie is not Dostoyevsky, but it is an amusing look at high school and the gossip mill in which what one actually did is less important than what others thought you did. And it _may_ serve as a lesson to anyone who actually believed stories told “in the locker room” (or today told in a torrent of text messages) as being “gospel truth.” Folks, people embellish and lie.

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