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"Easy A": Emma Stone and Alyson Michalka

Emma Stone and Alyson Michalka in:

"Easy A" | A film review (kind of) by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

As of this date, the United States, as it continues fighting in Afghanistan, flirts with two other wars at home: a holy war and a civil war (both kinds, as defined, might be better called oxymorons).

Well, to be upfront and chase-cutting about the movie: fictitious students at an Ojai, California high school, are being harassed by self-righteous classmates who profess to be Christians. You get to choose which faction to laugh at in this culture-clash comedy.

Such content doesn't bode well, seems to me: laughing at a particular religion or segment thereof is disrespectful, whatever your particular take is on faith and being.

Emma Stone, an actor who sports a very old soul, plays Olive, a girl who might be too hip and savvy for her own good...and age. As a virgin trying to advance her social prominence, she allows a rumor to promulgate about having sex with a male school chum. Dan Byrd plays Brandon, who's actually gay, and goes along with Olive's masquerade so he can maintain a place in the closet---for safety's sake.

Olive allows other bogus stories about liaisons with other young men (these straight) at school in order to "boost" their status, as well. They repay Olive for the lies that they've been intimate with her by giving her money or gift certificates. Hmmmm.

The first false rumor about Olive is over heard in the girls' loo by Marianne (Amanda Bynes), as Olive prevaricates it to her best bud Rhiannon, played by Alyson Michalka. Ms. Michalka looks like she could be Minnie Driver's blonde-headed, younger sister. You might have seen Alyson in "Band Slam." (Reviewed on this site, too)

Marianne is a girl who's deeply into abstinence and the accelerant for the wildfire-spread regarding Olive's spurious entrance into a life of braggadocio sex play. Marianne seems to be out to extract Olive from all this alleged lustful, fleshy sin going on---or are there other reasons?

Movies for the quite young usually rely on scatological humor for cheap giggles to tsumani across a kid-crowded theater. Films for slightly older people (pre-teens and teens) often make for mirth with strings of euphemistic terms spouted to identify parts of the human anatomy not usually seen on the big screen, unless you happen to have accidentally stumbled into a porn cinema. There's a lot of that: "funny" references to parts of the human pudendum for those of you who show up for your "Easy A," which, by the way, was directed by Will Gluck and written by Bert V. Royal.

Without doubt, "Easy A" is a pretty mundane movie that, however, does have some rather good acting, especially from Ms. Stone and Ms. Michalka, not to mention the ubiquitous and talented Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, who play Olive's mom and dad. How could it not come as a surprise that both Clarkson and Tucci damn near steal their scenes?

Patricia Clarkson Stanley Tucci

Patricia Clarkson

Stanley Tucci

Both parents are the paragons of liberal, live-let-live hold-overs from the late 60s and 70s. (I remember.) They're never seen smoking pot, but their characters, each, act a little bit stoned in every scene. It's funny, man. In fact, the relationship Olive has with her folks is too good to be true, as well as the one they have with the family's adopted little brother, Chip, who, incidentally, is a cute Afro-American boy played by Bryce Clyde Jenkins.

Alas, the film flames-out on it approach to finish trying not to offend anyone (which it obviously will) and make Olive a really neat young woman. Ms. Stone is very, very good, and should be getting more work in the future with the movie moxie she displays in "Easy A." There's more of her to enjoy here than in an even funnier film, "Zombieland," with its already legendary cameo by Bill Murray.

Yes, there are several allusions to Hester Prynne and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." It's a school assignment given by Mr. Griffith, played by Thomas Hayden Church (haha). He still has me chuckling for his job in "Sideways."

Mr. Griffith's wife, the school counselor and done by Lisa Kudrow, brings some laughs too, but the script begins crumbling soon after the zany Kudrow makes it on screen. It's a good cast, but none gets much to work with by the time the 3rd act arrives.

"Easy A" would make a better grade if it had jettisoned its humor targeting arrogant, self-righteous high school students written as Christians. Personally, (if that's important) I'm not usually sensitive to such shenanigans, but it's not wise to hold up a religion to ridicule in a film entertainment of social whimsy. The material is spinning-off the ongoing American cultural divisiveness currently so apparent. It's a part of "Easy A" that, at base, doesn't make the grade for me; again, if that's important?

So, that's how a small, sort of silly, and fairly well-done film connects to much larger events that rumble, daily, here and there around this good, old, precious earth of ours---all the people on which deserve much better, however they pray or even don't.

Easily, it's a C+ for "Easy A."

"Easy A" official site.

Opens wide Friday.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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