Olive Bridge Entertainment
Easy A, which opened this weekend, is a movie with many goals: At various points, it tries to be a satire of contemporary sexual mores, a feminist critique of double standards, and an homage to the great teen sex comedies of the '80s. It fails at all of these things, not because its reach exceeds its grasp, but because it's not reaching for much in the first place. The plot concerns a seventeen-year-old girl named Olive, who lies about having a date to avoid a friend, lies about losing her virginity on that date to impress that friend, is believed unquestioningly and turned into a "skank" in the minds of her entire high school overnight for reasons that remain unclear. She promptly begins to make bank on this whole implausible situation by allowing teen boys to lie about having sex with her in exchange for—for some reason—gift cards to major retail outlets. There's a promising story in here, somewhere: A happily raunchy and amoral tale about a girl cashing in on her sexuality, or a grim story about the psychological damage of slut-shaming, or a resounding rejection of the idea that virginity is every girl's most prized possession, or a satire of male sexual bravado. What we end up with, instead, is a mess; a story that tries to go in all of these directions, commits to none of them, and finally just plays it safe.
Olive, as it turns out, is one of those unbearable 17-year-old high school students who speak and think like 35-year-old screenwriters, saddled with the thankless task of pointing out to the audience exactly which parts of her own life are cliches and what movies her current situation might remind you of; sometimes, she even shows you clips. (Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The references, they are not obscure.) And yet, Olive's finely-tuned cliché detector fails her when she's confronted with, for example, an arch-nemesis in the form of a perky blonde suck-up, or a teacher who's cooler than everyone else because he's quippy and understands the brilliance of Olive, or a sexless and nerdy South Asian student who speaks with a heavy accent, or a 17-year-old high school student who speaks and thinks like a 35-year-old screenwriter who won't stop reminding you of his superior knowledge of cliché. These, we are meant to find clever and winning.