The only reason we know “Pocketful of Sunshine.”
I unashamedly love The House Bunny (2008). It’s laugh out loud hilarious, has an uplifting message, and features Anna Faris at her most bubbly. I’ve seen that movie countless times and yet every time I watch it, I forget that Emma Stone is one of the main characters. Her character, Natalie, gets some good jokes and an important storyline, but the fact that she’s played by Emma Stone always manages to slip my mind. So when I went to see Easy A (2010) in theatres, one of my first experiences going to the movies without adult supervision, it felt like my first real introduction to Emma Stone. And what an introduction it was. You guys, I LOVE this movie. Like, A LOT.
Inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” Easy A follows high-schooler Olive Penderghast as the lie she tells about losing her virginity spreads through the school like wildfire and everyone labels her as the “easiest” girl in school. As Olive’s (fictional) promiscuity gains more notoriety, she sees no harm in helping the school’s outcasts and less popular by letting them tell people that they’ve slept together. As her lies grow, Olive’s relationships with her best friend, classmates, and teachers are all put under considerable strain. For Olive, lying about being promiscuous is more harmful than if she had actually done any of the things that her classmates thought she had. Side note, please be safe, smart, and considerate when choosing to take part in ANY type of sexual activity.
So like I said, I LOVE this movie. It comes dangerously close to earning a spot on my top 10 list. It probably doesn’t come to most people’s minds when they think of great movies, but if you’ve seen it, you have to admit that its a a solid and expertly-made piece of filmmaking. From the sets, to the writing, to the performances, I can’t find much that’s wrong with it. Fun fact, apparently not a single set was used in this movie. Every scene is filmed at a real residence, business, or landmark in Ojai, California. You’d never believe it considering how unbelievably quaint and stylish all of the sets look. I suppose that’s a testament to the workmanship of director Will Gluck.
Oh Will Gluck. When I first saw this movie I remember thinking, “wow, he’s going to be the next John Hughes!” Yeah, I think Annie (2014) and Peter Rabbit (2018) have permanently squashed that thought. However, there’s still something very Hughes-ian about the tone, humour, and direction of Easy A, which brings to mind great teen movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and Sixteen Candles (1984). A teen movie is only as good as its young and often misguided protagonist, and Emma Stone’s Olive Penderghast is all of that and so much more. Charming, flawed, and hilariously relatable, this is a star-making role for Stone. A role that lets her flex her acting muscles, she gets to do everything from physical comedy, to snarky comebacks, to emotional monologues about morality. I’m a little disappointed that she hasn’t really done a laugh-out-loud comedy since this one except for Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Side note, that’s TOTALLY on my top 10 list. Sure her recent movies have dabbled in comedy, but nothing as gut-busting as when she’s shading classmates, faking sex with Brandon (Dan Byrd), or simply excited for lobster.
While it’d be hard to top, I’d love to see Stone let her natural goofiness shine in another comedy and put drama on the back burner for a bit. You’ve got the Oscar Emma. You’re allowed to be funny again. Speaking of, this is one of the funniest ensemble casts in recent memory. A bold statement that may be, but look at the cast list. This cast is FUCKING INCREDIBLE: Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Haden Church, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, and Aly Michalka. As Olive’s foul-mouthed and immature best friend Rhiannon, Michalka proves that when given the right script, she can hold her own with comedy heavyweights. I just want to say that I think Aly Michalka is actually super talented and likeable, and I always get a little jolt of excitement when she pops up in something I’m watching. What can I say? I’m very invested in her career. I watched every episode of Hellcats (2010 – 2011). That’s dedication.
So, Amanda Bynes. AMANDA BYNES. Part of the reason I chose to rewatch this movie stems from the enlightening interview she gave to Paper magazine that only reminded me of how much I missed her. I promise, the What a Girl Wants (2003) Wayback Wednesday review is coming. As Olive’s enemy, the annoyingly over-Catholic Marianne Bryant, Bynes chews ALL of the scenery and it’s so damn entertaining to watch. Bynes is at her best when she’s playing an over-the-top, exaggerated, almost cartoon-like character, and that’s exactly what Marianne is. She commits fully to playing the nasty and self-righteous frenemy, and while you’re far from being on her side, you can’t help but wait to see what type of ridiculous and nasty scheme she has cooking underneath all that blonde hair. Bynes is a a scene-stealer and I only hope to see her using her comedic talent in smart and funny projects like this one in the future.
Though Bynes’s charisma and comedic chops are undeniable, the real scene-stealers are Stanley Tucci and Patrica Clarkson who play Olive’s parents, Dill and Rosemary. Oh my God, they may just be the best part of this already perfect movie. Right off the bat, it’s inspired casting. Who wouldn’t want Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as their parents? As the movie progresses and Olive’s problems grow, Tucci and Clarkson get to play every aspect of a parental character: they’re fun-loving, deeply in love with each other and their kids, accepting, understanding, and wise. They really set the bar for movie parents. I’ve always loved Tucci and Clarkson but this may be my favourite performance for the pair of them. They feed off each other in such a fresh and natural way that their relationship always feel authentic and believable. They’re used sparingly but every time they appear, comedic magic follows. All of their lines are comedy gold, and I couldn’t even begin to pick a favourite. I LOVE THEM.
The script, which is the first and last film script by screenwriter Bert V. Royal, is brilliant. Filled to the brim with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes, its a subtle satire of the teen comedy genre that simultaneously contains an empowering and sex-positive message: what goes on in the bedroom is between the two people involved and is “nobody’s goddamn business.” I like that twist on the original “Scarlet Letter” story. More than anything, Easy A feels like the Clueless (1995) of this generation. Where Clueless is a rom-com that’s an updated take on Jane Austen’s “Emma” and serves as the perfect representation for mid ’90s teen culture, Easy A does the same thing with “The Scarlet Letter” while swapping out the mid ’90s for the early 2010s. The wit and charm of its cast also brings to mind the Alicia Silverstone classic, as does the California setting and the abundance of memorable and colourful characters. Huh, it’s even a little Mean Girls (2004). Wow, as far as teen movies go, you can’t do much better than being compared to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Clueless, AND Mean Girls. If that doesn’t prove how awesome this movie is, it even has Dan Byrd, who’s in one of the best teen movies of the 2000s, A Cinderella Story (2004). Fight me.
Gluck’s competent direction coupled with Royal’s quotable script and standout performances from the entire cast make Easy A an enjoyable and hilarious viewing experience that both teens and adults can find pleasure in. Endlessly delightful, intelligent, and skillfully adept at shifting between silly teen fluff and heavier adult themes, if you haven’t already seen this movie, you’re missing out on a modern classic. Hey, you know what we don’t talk about enough? How Miranda from Lizzie McGuire (2001 – 2004) is just casually in this movie. Her scene is less than 30 seconds and her character is credited as “Gossip Girl.” What’s up with that?
Do you like Easy A? What’s your favourite teen movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!