Movie Review - 'Easy A' - Reputation Management, With A Few Hiccups Previously known best for a small role in Superbad, Emma Stone shines in a comedy that owes a little bit to The Scarlet Letter and a little more to Sixteen Candles.
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'Easy A': Reputation Management, With Hiccups

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'Easy A': Reputation Management, With Hiccups

Review

Movies

'Easy A': Reputation Management, With Hiccups

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Actress Emma Stone made her film debut in "Superbad," where she showed she could do comedy and also take a head-butt. Her job was to be onscreen for only a few minutes and to get every male in the audience saying: I could see falling for her.

Now Stone has got a starring role in "Easy A," a new teen comedy with roots in a 160-year-old novel.

Our critic Bob Mondello says the young star shines.

BOB MONDELLO: Olive is a great kid. As played by Emma Stone, she's smart, smart-alecky and confident enough to not worry too much about her reputation when her best friend comes to her with a proposal after being bullied at school for being less than macho.

(Soundbite of movie, "Easy A")

Mr. DAN BYRD (Actor): (As Brandon) Do you want to go out with me?

Ms. EMMA STONE (Actor): (As Olive) Brandon, just a couple hours ago, you told me you were Kinsey Six gay.

Mr. BYRD: (As Brandon) True, but you said I should pretend to be straight, so...

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Yeah, I didn't mean with me.

MONDELLO: He puts on puppy eyes, and they hatch a plan: At a party, they will fake - loudly, behind a locked door - a pretend deflowering that'll make him seem like the class stud.

(Soundbite of movie, "Easy A")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Is that Olive with Brandon?

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Now grunt, and make it convincing.

(Soundbite of grunting)

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Don't stop.

Mr. BYRD: (As Brandon) I'm not going to stop!

Ms. STONE: Are you ready to fake the grand finale?

Mr. BYRD: (As Brandon) Yeah, what?

(Soundbite of punching, screaming)

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Yeah.

Mr. BYRD: Thank you.

(Soundbite of door opening, music)

Unidentified Actor: Whassup?

MONDELLO: Brandon's rep is now great: No more bullying. The problem is this little exploit gives Olive a rep, too, and not just with the kids at school who are fooled by it but with her parents, who kind of see through it - but only kind of.

Ms. PATRICIA CLARKSON (Actor): (As Rosemary) He seemed a little incredibly gay.

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Dyed-in-the-wool homosexual, that boy is.

Ms. CLARKSON: (As Rosemary) I dated a homosexual once, for a long time, actually, a long time.

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Dear God, dear Lord, tell me you did not marry and have children with him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CLARKSON: (As Rosemary) No. No, no. Your father is as straight as they come, a little too straight, if you know what I mean, girlfriend.

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) I don't.

MONDELLO: Support is less forthcoming at school, where the rumor mill has pretty much everyone calling Olive a tramp, especially the religious abstinence crowd.

(Soundbite of movie, "Easy A")

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (As character) There's a higher power that will judge you for your indecency.

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Tom Cruise?

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) I hope for your sake that God has a sense of humor.

Ms. STONE: (As Olive) Oh, I have 17 years' worth of anecdotal proof he does.

MONDELLO: Olive's quips aside, she's starting to feel the joke wearing thin, and you can see we're headed straight into "Breakfast Club" meets "Sixteen Candles" territory, except that director Will Gluck and his screenwriters have something a little snarkier in mind: They're doing a satirical take on appearances and moralizing that takes its cues from novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.

(Soundbite of movie, "Easy A")

Ms. SMITH: (As Olive) Ironically, we were studying "The Scarlet Letter." This girl named Hester Prynne has an affair with a minister, is besmirched and made to wear a red A for adulterer.

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (As character) Perhaps you should embroider a red A on your wardrobe.

Ms. SMITH: (As Olive) I'm not proud of this.

MONDELLO: Bright red A's sewn into her bodice prove just as attention-getting as you'd expect.

Now, "Easy A" - the title's a nice pun, no? - doesn't take its literary notions as far as, say, the teen flick "Clueless," which was an actual adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma." This film just uses "The Scarlet Letter" as a jumping-off point and more or less abandons the connection in the last half-hour or so.

But in most high school comedies, the high jinks tend to be so lowbrow that even a nod in a literary direction deserves extra credit. And when it comes in a picture as witty and as smartly cast as "Easy A," the temptation to grade on a curve is overwhelming.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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