A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Easy A is a smart teen comedy inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter. It centers on a straight-laced teen (Emma Stone) who gets caught up in the school rumor mill (partly thanks to gossip spreading via Facebook and texting) -- a situation that many teens will be able to identify with. Labeled promiscuous after she tells a white lie and, later, exacerbates that lie with another, she quickly loses control of the situation (though, because this is a movie, she manages to cope with poise and wit). Although little action is shown, the subject of sex permeates the whole film, and there are lots of innuendoes/references and situations (including talk about losing virginity), as well as incidents in which kids judge one another. There's also some swearing (including "s--t") and allusions to underage drinking.
What's the story?
In EASY A, without even thinking through the consequences, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) tells a white lie about going on a date with a college boy, which quickly morphs into a traction-gaining rumor that she's lost her virginity, and how. The campus crusaders don't like it, and neither does Olive, actually, until she realizes that she's no longer the bookish, invisible high achiever everyone has known her to be. Pretty soon, she's helping other boys who want to change their reputations through gossip (and accepting gift cards as payment for her services...). But when the situation snowballs, her lie looks poised to undo a marriage, a career, and an important friendship. It may even nix the possibility of finally kissing the boy (Penn Badgley) she's liked for years.
Is it any good?
Let's get the most important point out of the way: Emma Stone is a find! Sassy, funny, and thoroughly likeable, she makes Easy A an easy sell. Her Olive commits none of the sins that so frequently undo other teen heroines. She's unpredictable, irreverent, believably impulsive, kind-hearted, and defiant at just the right moments. She elevates the film from typical teen fare to something nearly approaching the John Hughes classics that her character adores.
What keeps it from getting all the way there? The usual vilifying of nerds and popular types and religious zealots who, it has to be said, come across as painfully judgey here. In real life, there are other judgey types, so it's lazy shorthand to pin the heavy-handed self-righteousness on Christians. And though Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are adorable as Olive's parents, you can't help but wonder whether every well-adjusted parent in a teen comedy has to be portrayed as a wise-cracking, quip-dispensing bon vivant. (See: Juno.) Olive's big love is a snooze, too (the character, not the actor -- sorry, Penn Badgley). A girl as interesting as Olive deserves a Ferris Bueller as a counterpart. But, these quibbles aside, Easy A is still great fun. Who knew Hawthorne could be this hilarious?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gossip and bullying. What role does technology play in how the gossip about Olive spreads in Easy A? How can you prevent that kind of thing from happening in real life?
Why does Olive perpetuate the gossip about her? What does she get out of it, considering that it also torments her? Is her reaction believable?
Does the movie do a good job of modernizing a classic book? Do the movie and the novel The Scarlet Letter have the same message? Where do they differ?
- In theaters: September 17, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 21, 2010
- Cast: Amanda Bynes, Emma Stone, Penn Badgley
- Director: Will Gluck
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material
For kids who love teen tales
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.