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Easy A DVD Review

Easy A (2010) movie poster Easy A

Theatrical Release: September 17, 2010 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Will Gluck / Writer: Bert V. Royal / Songs List

Cast: Emma Stone (Olive Penderghast), Penn Badgley (Woodchuck Todd), Amanda Bynes (Marianne), Dan Byrd (Brandon), Thomas Haden Church (Mr. Griffith), Patricia Clarkson (Rosemary Penderghast), Cam Gigandet (Micah), Lisa Kudrow (Mrs. Griffith), Malcolm McDowell (Principal Gibbons), Aly Michalka (Rhiannon), Stanley Tucci (Dill Penderghast), Fred Armisen (Pastor), Juliette Goglia (Eighth Grade Olive), Jake Sandvig (Anson), Morgan Rusler (Mr. Abernathy), Nikki Tyler-Flynn (Mrs. Abernathy), Braeden Lemasters (Eighth Grade Kid), Mahaley Hessam (Nina), Jameson Moss (Evan), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (Chip Penderghast), Neil Soni (Zia), Lalaine (Gossipy Girl)

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Easy A is an original contemporary high school comedy that knows there is only so much originality a contemporary high school comedy can deliver. Accordingly, it leans upon American storytelling traditions in fun, fresh, new ways.

The title refers not to lenient grading but to a reputation that becomes attached to our previously anonymous protagonist Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone). It begins with a seemingly harmless lie she tells her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Aly Michalka). Olive can't go camping with Rhiannon and her weird naturist parents this weekend because...she will be busy with a community college student named George.
There is no George, but that invention rolls into the story that she has lost her virginity to him. Olive doesn't hatch that, but she doesn't even have a chance to refute it before the news is spread all around school and everyone is looking at her differently. While guys are suddenly noticing her, some of her classmates like "Jesus freak" Marianne (Amanda Bynes) speak out in disapproval.

Newly aware of the power, speed, and unreliability of gossip, Olive reluctantly lets a gay classmate (Dan Byrd, "Cougar Town") talk her into adding to the chatter by publicly staging a fake tryst at a party to spare him years of homophobism. Olive sees the parallels between her setting and the puritanical society of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which she is reading in her English class with her favorite teacher (Thomas Haden Church). She embraces the rumors, secretly accepting gift cards from the few outcasts who know the truth in exchange for corroborating their fictional tales of sexual escapades. She even starts dressing the part of the "skank" in which the student body has cast her, complete with a shameless red "A" paying homage to Hester Prynne.

In her webcast, protagonist Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) holds up the DVD of the 1930s filming of "The Scarlet Letter", which she recommends over the Demi Moore version. Olive's family -- adopted brother Chip (Bryce Clyde Jenkins), father Dill (Stanley Tucci), and mother Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) -- is a flavorful source of amusement and support.

We know early on that there are consequences to Olive's fabricated ill repute, because the movie is framed as a kind of webcam confessional. Fortunately, there isn't the stench of familiarity or lessons learned in conventional ways. We're never sure how this will turn out, even if we suspect and hope that Olive might clear her name and find a decent guy to build a real relationship with. Easy A does get a bit muddled with plot turns, throwing a BFF feud, a case of Chlamydia, a student-teacher affair, religious exploration, and an unpleasant date our way. None of this seems to matter as much as the good will generated by the film's winning comic atmosphere.

This is a movie that will appeal not just to today's teenagers but nearly anyone who was a teenager in the past thirty years. Recognizing that the high school years never mean as much until after they're gone, the film injects the wisdom and perspective of life experience. To that end, everyone portraying a high school student is in their twenties.
We also find voices of varying reason in grown-up characters like Church's teacher, Lisa Kudrow's guidance counselor, and Olive's affable parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci.

First-time screenwriter Bert V. Royal (a former TV casting associate) is in his early thirties and as a result, he brings a warm appreciation for the high school movie's apparent heyday, the 1980s. He has Olive sing the praises of the personalities and actions from beloved entries of teenages past, complete with clips and tributes of Say Anything..., Can't Buy Me Love, and, from the genre's patron saint John Hughes, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's a move which all who grew up with those films (and that includes today's youths as cultured as Olive believably is) will admire and then become more willing to forgive Easy A's rare off-key note.

And there are off-key notes (the film's negative portrayal of Christianity, for example) but none that pose a real threat to your enjoyment. Like those fine, fondly-recalled high school movies of the 1980s, Easy A is sweet, funny, and quite hard to dislike. Even critics, a group not naturally sympathetic to new teen movies, praised Easy A almost universally. And the film pulled in a very respectable $58 million at the box office, on a budget of just $8 M.

Olive (Emma Stone) and gay classmate Brandon (Dan Byrd) create a reputation-changing scene at Melody Bostic's party with the amorous bedroom sounds they emit. While briefly dabbling in friendship, judgmental Christian youth group leader Marianne (Amanda Bynes, with Cam Gigandet) mostly makes life difficult for Olive.

Those facts might lend credence to last week's unlikely nomination of Emma Stone in the Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy category of the Golden Globes over an international star like Julia Roberts. But the same awards show acknowledged the lambasted, audience-shunning Burlesque and The Tourist and in fact chose them and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland over Easy A for the Musical or Comedy Best Picture honor. Stone's nod is almost certain to be the biggest piece of recognition Easy A receives because no matter how much audiences enjoy it, a mainstream PG-13 high school comedy is not destined to compete for awards against more dramatic, traditional, artful and technical fare.

But -- you're probably thinking right now -- who cares about awards and all the politics that go into them? And while I must admit that I really, really do, I also consider it a detriment to the powers that be that a smart, enjoyable movie like this doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to figure into any major year-end discussions simply because it doesn't fit the industry's standards. Not that I'd call it good enough to deserve a major award or nomination, but it is too good to be immediately dismissed. And that is a thought that probably won't be on too many of the minds of those who give or receive Easy A as a Christmas present, for which it opportunely debuts on DVD and Blu-ray this week, just three months after opening in theaters.

Easy A DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, English Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, Easy A easily gets an A for picture quality. Clean, sharp, and vibrant, Sony's 1.85:1 widescreen presentation is just about flawless. While that isn't really surprising at the end of 2010, it is appreciated. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is good. The oft-sampled music (which includes covered songs that are nods to high school movies dating back to Grease) is mixed a little more loudly than the other elements, though that is probably by design.

Upon uttering the word "superslut", Aly(son) Michalka colorfully fears a wardrobe malfunction in the Easy A gag reel. This Emma Stone Webcam Audition Footage is too short to mean anything to us. In this animated main menu graphic, Olive's lie travels quickly across school by those kids and their texting.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The slight collection of DVD extras begins with an audio commentary by director Will Gluck and Emma Stone.

Theirs is a breezy but engaging discussion, lighthearted and with seemingly no greater revelation than pointing out the subtle prevalence of oranges in the movie. Some facts about the production emerge, but this is more worth listening for just an entertaining conversation between the film's two leading personalities.

A gag reel (5:20) amuses in the usual ways, with fumbled lines and general goof-ups edited together in quick succession.

Finally, "Emma Stone Webcam Audition footage" (1:10) offers just a short, unremarkable clip of the actress performing the Easy A's opening much as she does in the film.

Bonus feature fans might be disappointed to learn that Sony has kept most of them exclusive to Blu-ray. That version includes a pop-up trivia track, "The Making of Easy A", "The School of Pop Culture: Movies of the Eighties", "Vocabulary of Hilarity", and the movieIQ+sync BD-Live feature. That is some pretty serious stuff that DVD customers are denied and we can easily rule out incompatibility and insufficient disc space as explanations for most of their absences.

Playing at disc insertion are promos for Sony's make.believe, The Social Network, Burlesque, Beastly, and Nowhere Boy. The Previews menu holds all but the first plus ads for Salt, The Other Guys, How Do You Know, "Community": The Complete First Season, Tamara Drewe, Eat Pray Love, The House Bunny, and "Drop Dead Diva": The Complete First Season.

The main menu, the disc's only animated one, offers an inspired mix of clips and thematic graphics.

An insert inside the black Eco-Box keepcase offers $5 off the DVD and Blu-ray releases of eight recent or upcoming Sony titles.

The eyes of the entire Ojai North High student body appear to be on Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) after rumor has it she's the school harlot.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Easy A unexpectedly manages to channel the endearing qualities of the most beloved high school movies of all time into something fun and somehow not tired or redundant. It's not perfect, but it's more than good enough to be one of the teen movies that a future generation of adults will revere and filmmakers pay homage to. The feature presentation of Sony's DVD is solid, but the disc really strikes out in the extras department, needlessly dropping a number of promising Blu-ray bonuses. It's unfortunate that the vast majority of customers will miss out on what is probably enjoyable content, but they'll still appreciate watching the movie again and again.

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Easy A Songs List (in order of use): Sweet Thing - "Change of Seasons (Demo Version)", Sweet Thing - "Change of Seasons", Natasha Bedingfield - "Pocketful of Sunshine", Rob Walker Marching Band - "Fight Dillon Fight", Remi Nicole - "Cupid Shoot Me", The Pussycat Dolls - "Don't Cha", Miniature Tigers - "The Wolf", Lenka - "Trouble is a Friend", Dan Black - "Symphonies", Carlos Bertonatti - "Picture Perfect", Rooney - "Go On", The Yeah You's - "15 Minutes", DJ Laz featuring Casely and Flo Rida - "Move Shake Drop (Remix)", "Confession Parking Lot", Kardinal Offishall - "Numba One (Tide is High)", The Dollyrots - "Bad Reputation", Jessica Cornish - "Sexy Silk", "Go Down Moses", Day One - "Bad Before Good", The Boy Least Likely To - "When Life Gives Me Lemons, I Make Lemonade", Cary Brothers - "If You Were Here", I Heart Homework - "We Go Together", OneRepublic - "Good Life", "Rhapsody of the Awesome", Angus & Julia Stone - "Big Jet Plane", Kram - "Satellite", "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen", Death Cab for Cutie - "Transatlanticism", Emma Stone - "Knock On Wood", Simple Minds - "Don't You (Forget About Me)", AM - "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

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Reviewed December 20, 2010.



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