Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Will Gluck and Bert V. Royal's EASY A -- Zowie: a great teen movie has arrived!

What a week for movies!  Within two days of each other are opening the best narrative film (so far this year), the best documentary (so far this year) and now the best teen film -- not just of this year but several, maybe ten or more. Every decade, I suppose, deserves its special and popular teen hit. When TrustMovies was of that age-group, those films were Rebel Without a Cause and The Blackboard Jungle (both from 1955).

As the 50s turned into the 60s, we got A Summer Place,  Where the Boys Are and Splendor in the Grass.  Times changed, sexual taboos lessened, and popular teen movies turned more to comedy than drama (though Where the Boys Are had a nice mix of both) -- with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello filling theaters. Comedy continued to reign over the decades, with teen rebellion even more prominent during the crazy 70s (though the adults of that day seemed to be rebelling as much as were the kids). The 80s saw the rise of The Breakfast Club and other John Hughes films, the 90s gave us Clueless, and now at last comes a terrific teen movie for the new millennium. (It had to wait, one supposes, until the Republicans/Fundamentalists were out of power, as it dishes everything for which those two similar groups seem to stand.)

EASY A, with its wonderful nod (above) to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his famous Scarlet Letter, is as up-to-date as any Hughes movie was, but with a heroine so funny, bright and fast on the draw, she puts to shame much of what has come before. The actress who plays her, Emma Stone (shown at left and above), is a young lady to watch.  Terrific in everything from Superbad to Zombieland to the under-seen Paper Man (the DVD/Blu-ray release of which appears to have been   suddenly delayed. Too bad!), here she is finally THE STAR -- and oh, momma -- does the girl deliver! Radiating intelligence and wit, Stone strides through the movie like an adorable red-haired colossus laying waste to the crappy culture and bad behavior all around her.

A high-school virgin who's neither proud nor upset by that state of affairs, Ms Stone, as Olive (great choice of name), is badgered (and maybe bored) nearly to death by her lame best friend (Aly Michalka, at right, above) into finally lying about losing it to a college kid via a one-night stand. The high school rumor mill takes over, and Olive, her reputation in tatters, finds herself helping (intentionally or not) other students -- the gay boy, the fat boy, the Christian with Chlamydia -- burnish theirs. And of course Olive's English teacher has recently assigned the Hawthorne novel to his class, which leads to wonderful fun at the expense of poor Demi Moore. (It's OK: Ms Moore's back in form with The Joneses.)

As directed by Will Gluck (shown at right -- of the adequate Fired Up and a bunch of TV) and written by newcomer Bert V. Royal, the movie is amazingly literate -- about high school (its banter and behavior), about family (Olive's is a bizarre but loving bunch), even about literature (with a nod to Leslie Fielder and Huck Finn!).  Gluck's command of pacing and tone is absolutely on target; the movie never slows down yet neither does it tire us. Easy A may be the only film I can recall during which I did not once look at my watch (at the movies, I am an inveterate watch-watcher). Even the credits are a delight, laid out as they are all around the campus. And where the camera pans at the last moment of the end credits echoes the film's beginning in the loveliest way.

And the cast is wickedly on target -- full of terrific old-timers (Malcolm McDowell, as the school principal), top-class character actors (Patricia Clarkson (above, right) and Stanley Tucci as Olive's parents; Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow as, respectively her English teacher and guidance counselor) and a younger set full of talent and looks (Amanda Bynes as the Christian from hell and Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley (shown below -- talk about going from the ridiculous to the sublime -- as the not-quite-yet love of Olive's life).  Every actor has been chosen well and offers up a fine performance. The music is fun, the dialog delightful, and the photography, editing, and other technical aspects everything they ought to be. And, as necessary for most comedies, if a moment here and there doesn't work, the next one will double the fun.

Most of all, the movie has something on its mind. Gluck, Royal and their cast deliver an idea that teens might take to heart: Gossip is crap, the turd jewel in the crown of current high school culture. In a juicy, smart, well written and delivered last statement, Olive tells us about her much bandied virginity (and what might happen to it) that's a real pleasure to hear. I hope that high schoolers across the country (across oceans, too: this movie should travel) will listen.

Easy A should be a huge hit with the young crowd.  If it isn't, it'll be because the movie's too damn intelligent for that audience.  In which case, it may become the adult's delight.  The film opens nationwide on Friday, September 17, from Sony's Screen Gems (it's one of the best I've seen from this affiliate). Click here then type in your zip code and date in the "ticketing widget" to learn where the movie will be playing near you.

No comments: