Easy A

Feb. 14th, 2011 04:42 pm
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Cinema visit: Easy A

Now this is an interesting one. We skipped it the first time around since it looked like it was a pretty standard teen-drama and that's not something we would necessarily enjoy. But word-of-mouth since has been that it actually was as clever as it thought it was, with the best-case scenario being that it was a knowing nod to John Hughes and possibly even worthy of comparison to Heathers. So when we found that it had a showing due to Emma Stone being nominated for the Orange Rising Stars Award we decided to chance it. Not to spoil the rest of the review but the short version is that the best-case was indeed what we found ourselves watching - a genuinely funny, intelligent and surprisingly sex-positive film.

It's inspired by rather than based on The Scarlet Letter, being the story of a young woman who finds that a combination of Chinese Whispers and her own lie of expediency (about a date leaving her unable to meet a friend) mean that she has overnight become ostracised as “the school slut.” I say inspired by since she basically decides to revel in her new reputation and actually uses it to help her friend Brandon, who is being bullied for being gay, by putting on a show of being a couple. Her take is that if people are going to gossip about her anyway, then she'll give them something to gossip about, to the extent of adopting a lingerie-based look (described in-film as “whore couture”) with scarlet As prominently displayed. I particularly appreciate the point where Olive asks herself what would have happened in The Scarlet Letter – before deciding that suffering in silence is not how she wants to deal with her own situation. Telling the truth is rather more valued in this interpretation than in The Scarlet Letter with its emphasis on silent humility and resigned acceptance of being wronged. It's a nice illustration of changing values – values that much needed to change.

As well as the references to Nathaniel Hawthorne there are also some lovely nods to the John Hughes vision of teen life in America, to the extent that Olive herself comments that “sadly, John Hughes did not direct my life” over a quick montage of romantic moments from various Hughes films. And Olive's happy ending is a humourous replay of the moment in Say Anything where her would-be boyfriend arrives under her window with a boombox (or in this case, some iPod speakers, and in a further nod to the genre, playing Simple Minds from the end of the Breakfast Club, rather than the original song)– on a lawnmower.

I also like the end point for Brandon. He and his lover are sprawled out happily on a bed together, companionably watching something on a laptop. This scene appears in the sequence of various characters enthralled by Olive's big reveal podcast – but when the camera moves around that's not what they're watching. And they're not watching it because they don't live in that small world of high-school any longer and it just doesn't matter to them. It's a very fine echo of a scene early in the film where Brandon tells Olive that he knows life will be better someday when he can be out in the real world and be himself but this is now, and he wants his life to be better now. Showing that he really does escape is a lovely happy ending.

Some other nice touches were the moment when the boy who has apparently just had loud and rampant sex is greeted by an adoring crowd of other boys, while the girl is glared at by the other girls and leered at by boys. Its a very subtle and unspoken observation of that particular double standard. And similarly, I liked the way that the point of view character is quietly atheist while the meddlesome and judgmental Christian group are portrayed as odd outsiders, rather than the more usual assumption that every student in every school in the USA is a devout Christian. That's a rather subversive position and one I appreciate.

As an aside, Olive's parents are amazing; loving, funny, intelligent, willing to give their kids space and independence while offering support if needed. I love that they trust their daughter enough to believe her when she says everything's OK, knowing that she can come to them if she needs to. I know I'm being a bit transparent when I point out that they're everything my own family wasn't but even so I think I would like to adopt them as my imaginary family.

As I mentioned at the start it's surprisingly sex-positive, especially for a film with no actual sex in it. Olive doesn't feel shame for supposedly having had sex – why should she? It's all the other characters who do take it as some kind of mark of shame who are ridiculed. And just in case you'd managed to miss the point, at the very end, she addresses her audience saying that this time she might actually choose to have sex for the first time. She might do so right now, or tonight, or in a few months, or on their wedding night – and it's no-one's business but hers. I like that sentiment!
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Missing Opossum

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