I saw Easy A when it first came out a few years ago. Wanted to because Emma Stone (of Zombieland fame), Will Gluck (who did Fired Up!), and The Scarlet Letter (which I, being a dutiful student in 11th grade English, read). I liked it a bunch and so when it was on sale recently I picked it up.
And I finally re-watched it. And I think I like it even more.
Because Easy-A is an excellent piece of storytelling. There’s a lot to like about it, of course. It’s fabulously witty, with the script’s jokes coming fast and punchy. Then there’s the great family dynamic that comes all to seldom to high school comedies. Olive’s parents aren’t the losers or the antagonists, instead they’re, well, her parents. The movie’s one of all too few (Super 8 comes to mind) that doesn’t write out the parents completely but rather makes them interesting in their own right. Of course, that may be partially to blame on Stanley Tucci, but all the same. Where Easy A really shines, though, is in its excellent plotting and commitment to theme. Seriously. The movie doesn’t waste anything.
Clocking in at around and hour and a half, Easy A fittingly moves along at a brisk pace. It takes barely five minutes in to reach the inciting incident (the rumor about Olive spreads) and the movie ends shortly after that plot line ends (Olive comes clean about the truth). There’s no Return of the King style ending where we get a half hour’s worth of resolution, nor is there an age spent establishing characters and dressing up their normal world; Easy A skips right to the punch. Heck, the inciting incident happens before we’ve been introduced to all the major players.
This quickness reveals one of Easy A’s greatest strengths. Each character, from Todd to Olive’s parents, are established with an expediency that would make Joss Whedon jealous. Granted, Olive’s voiceover helps speed it along, but here it isn’t a lazy storytelling device. See, the voice over is worked into the narrative itself: it’s Olive’s confession and retelling of all the events. So not only does it help us, as the audience, get up to speed with everything really quickly. But it also serves the story in that it’s Olive saying what really happened. It’s not lazily doing nothing; her voice over emphasizes the central theme of the film.
That’s the other thing Easy A does so well: stick to its theme. As Olive says, there are two sides to every story. The film is about the truth and rumors and every conflict within the narrative is born of it. The central tension rises out of Olive’s story being overheard; it escalates when she makes a business of lying to spread ‘positive’ rumors. Lastly, it’s the truth — and Olive spreading it — that brings about the story’s resolution. Everything in the film is about it. But because everything adheres to this central tension (truth versus rumors), the plot feels incredibly focused.
So not only does Easy A know the story it’s telling, but it is firmly committed to telling that story. Everything is built around it; Olive’s relationships are built around honesty and who believes her. Who knows the rumors versus the truth. Who believes the rumors versus the truth. Here’s the biggest thing to learn from Easy A: if you know what your story’s about and develop everything around it, nothing gets wasted.
So yeah, Easy A is an excellent example of a story well told. And I’d got more into it but t’s almost midnight and I’ve gotta get this posted. Long story short, it’s fantastically paced and handles its theme in a great way.