Heathers in the 1980s. Clueless in the '90s. Mean Girls in the noughts. It seems like every decade insists on giving audiences a razor-sharp high school satire centered around the travails of a brainy and likable female protagonist. Easy A appears to be this new decade's first entry in the sweepstakes, and while it can't quite compare to its enduring predecessors, it will do just fine until something more permanent comes along.
Borrowing from the '80s oeuvre of high school flicks — and not always gracefully (any film that uses the Breakfast Club anthem "Don't You (Forget About Me)" for a crowd-pleasing finale is definitely cutting corners) — Easy A casts Emma Stone in a potential star-making performance as Olive, a virginal wallflower who, through convoluted means, ends up being tagged as the biggest slut at her California high school. Her best friend (Alyson Michalka) wants to dump her, the resident Jesus freak (Amanda Bynes) wants to alternately save or condemn her, and various nerds want to score with her. Soon, Olive is likening her situation to Hester Prynne's in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and rather than fight the rumors, she starts parading around the campus grounds wearing tight-fitting clothes accentuated by a red letter "A."
The Hawthorne comparisons are often clumsy, and Olive's friends and tormentors are a rather generic lot (most invisible of all is Penn Badgley as the only guy who treats her decently). But there's still much to enjoy: Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the Coolest Parents Ever; Thomas Haden Church wearing sensitivity well as a congenial teacher; Lisa Kudrow in a welcome appearance as a shallow guidance counselor; and no shortage of clever retorts penned by debuting scripter Bert V. Royal. Easy A may be about the kids, but aside from Stone's contribution, it mostly benefits from all the adult supervision.