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Columnist
Give this teen sex comedy an A for effort, at least
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Film Critic

Olive (Emma Stone) narrates her own version of how she earned a scarlet letter in the high school comedy "Easy A."

 

Olive (Emma Stone) narrates her own version of how she earned a scarlet letter in the high school comedy "Easy A."

 

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Published: 9/16/2010 12:00 AM | Updated: 9/16/2010 12:37 PM

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Emma Stone possesses soft, come-hither eyes that could drink in the oceans, a sexually playful, raw, husky voice that could melt icebergs, and a feminine fragility that summons forth the protector in males.

"Easy A" fulfills the promise that this remarkable young actress showed in the horror/comedy "Zombieland." She single-handedly carries her sassy new high school sex comedy with crates of confidence, charisma and charm.

In "Easy A" (also one of the smartest, cleverest titles in recent years), Stone tosses out a career-making performance fraught with conflicting emotions, torn loyalties and adolescent confusion, all built upon a foundation of Christ-like good will toward men.

Stone's seemingly effortless performance does wonders to cover the sins of the movie, such as a weak, tentative use of her character as a Christ symbol, the ridiculous overuse of the word "awesome!" (nine times) and a blatant pandering to 1980s nostalgia at the cost of the story's unnecessarily sacrificed originality.

Stone plays Olive Pendergast, a high schoolgirl who narrates her story via a streaming broadcast from her computer. She lays out everything that has happened, complete with chapter titles.

One day in the restroom, Olive's best pal Rhia (Aly Michalka) pushes her hard to find out what she did on the weekend. To shut her up, Olive tells a white lie: She lost her virginity to a college guy.

Faster than you can run around the campus with a super-speeded-up camera lens, rumors spread that Olive has become a woman.

This works well thematically for Olive, who's studying Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" in English class, taught by the cool Mr. Griffith (Thomas Hayden Church).

In short order, Olive's other friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd), begs her a favor. Will she say she slept with him, so that the homophobes in school won't constantly ostracize and bully him for being gay?

Byrd's pain-filled cry for help is a real stake-in-the heart moment, too.

She says yes, and that opens the flood gates for the school's nerds and outcasts, all seeking social validation and acceptance through faked sexual encounters with chaste Olive, who accepts gift cards as payment for her "services."

She feels wonderful about being able to help others.

But there's one thing she hadn't counted on.

The guys who reportedly bedded Olive are celebrated as heroes.

She is shunned.

And she is demonized by the school's own Christian coalition, a small group of nice kids led by the brittle and judgmental Marianne (Amanda Bynes).

OK, today's public high schools aren't anywhere near as sexually conservative as "Easy A" imagines.

This is a hyperbolic, fantastic comedy in which Olive's parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) are the coolest in the universe, and Olive (as in olive branch?) is flawlessly virtuous as she takes on the sins of her fellow students and sacrifices herself (at least her reputation) for them.

She even extends the sacrifice to Griffin's wife (Lisa Kudrow), a high-school guidance counselor in need of more guidance than her students.

"Easy A" is well on its way to becoming a sharp and daring comedy of manners when first-time feature writer Bert Royal pulls up at the last moment, supplying a conventional ending (think "Glee") that is both satisfying and disappointing at the same time.

"I fake-rocked your world!" Olive shouts at another boy who betrays her.

As the delightful and winning Olive, Stone rocks ours.

And it's no fake.