Easy A

 
(i)

 

Teen Scarlet Letter update is smart but risque.
  • Review Date: September 8, 2010
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In keeping with its connection to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the film thumbs its nose at hypocrisy and those who stand in judgment of others. Though it sometimes goes about this noble goal in a ham-handed way -- i.e. by stereotyping certain groups (like Christians and high schoolers in general) -- it does confront important questions about labeling and judging others (especially when your own life isn't perfect).

Positive role models

Olive gets an undeserved reputation for being sleazy and fights back by throwing other people's judgments in their face. Instead of submitting to her peers' small-mindedness, she stands up for herself (though she does sometimes go about it in an ill-advised manner). She uses humor to deflect cruelty and has a soft heart. She does bend the truth, sometimes to her detriment -- and she also takes the iffy step of demanding payment (in the form of gift cards) for helping guys with their reputations -- but in the end she finds that honesty really is the best policy. Her parents are both irreverent and supportive, and a young man accepts her for who she is rather than who she's reputed to be.

Violence

A teen slaps a peer; another gets into a fight, though viewers don't see the actual skirmish -- just him nursing a bleeding nose. A guy gets pushy trying to kiss a girl.

Sex

Though viewers don't actually see anyone having sex, the characters talk about it a lot, and the subject permeates the whole movie. Virginity (and the loss thereof) is a frequent topic of discussion. High schoolers gossip about a classmate's sex life. A girl and a boy fake having sex behind closed doors by making very loud grunting sounds and talking "dirty" to each other. A main character wears suggestive clothing to confront her "easy" reputation. A teacher talks about having sex with a student (who's of age). A quick glimpse of the side of a breast (the woman's a nudist). There's a vibrator in the movie, though it's not seen (wrapped in paper). Mention of a sexually transmitted disease.

Language

Language includes several uses of "s--t," plus "ass," "hell," "damn," "screw," "tw-t," "skank," "d--k," "t-t," and "whore." Also "goddamn" and "oh my God."

Consumerism

Lots of logos/mentions of stores/brands, including Costco, Home Depot, Target, Quiznos, T.J. Maxx, Bath & Body Works, and other mall-type stores (most are in the context of gift cards that the main character takes as payment for doing reptuation-related "favors" for guys).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A bong is shown briefly. A teen asks another if he can fetch her a drink at a party (though viewers don't see them imbibing).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this smart teen comedy inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter 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?

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?

QUALITY
 

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?

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about gossip and bullying. What role does technology play in how the gossip about Olive spreads? 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 17, 2010
DVD release date: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

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Adult Written byvwterry September 18, 2010
 

funny and clever, but not for younger teens or tweens

I'm beginning to wish for a rating of PG-15. This movie is well worth seeing, but it pushes the PG-13 rating to the limit.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 11 year old Written byavrilnyc October 2, 2010
 

movie is funny but stereotypes too much

I have mixed feelings about this movie. It is funny. The acting is great. Also it does touch a subject that's very interesting to kids, namely how fast rumors spread and how fast someone's reputation can be ruined. But the movie makes fun of Christians in a bigoted way (all confessing Christians in the movie are either stupid, or mean or both). Regarding sex, there's a lot of talk..but I think in this day and age every 13 year old knows what virginity is.
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bykerwin70 September 18, 2010
 
I took my 13 year old daughter to see this. We both loved it. I was not quite prepared for the extent of the language used, but it probably wasn't anything she hasn't heard before. Of course the topic of sex IS the movie. Your child obviously shouldn't be seeing this unless you've had "the talk" with them. It may have been more of a problem for me than my daughter. Maybe she'll have a little edge on how to deal with the rumor-mill. The main character, Olive, is so spunky and funny you can't help but root for her. She handles everything the best she can with humor and chutzpah. If my daughter, God forbid, ever has to deal with similar issues I hope she takes Olive's lead.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models

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