Posts Tagged ‘Easy A’

Easy A Poster

While crossing a shallow but turbulent river, a powerful surge overtook Teresa of Avila, knocking her from her donkey and down into the mud.  As she sat up, wiping her eyes and wringing out her clothes, she saw the Lord appear, sitting on her overturned cart.

“That, Teresa,” he said with a smile, “is how I treat my friends.”

“And that, Lord,” she replied, “is why you have so few of them!”

Oh god, the filthy things I want to do to this movie. 

The religious mysticism student in me wants to talk about Stone’s heroine as what Robertson Davies called a “fool-saint” – a quasi-martyr who gives of themselves until nothing is left, even when their actions seem counter to conventional morality.  Olive has a lot in common with Davies’ Mary Dempster – and indeed with all the best saints: not the cloyingly pious, and not the glorified bureaucrats, but the crazy motherfuckers who ate shrubs and talked to birds and lived on top of pillars or in weird little holes and reconquered France and yes, who shouted at Jesus while he was chillaxing next to their donkey in a river.

The other part of me, the semiotician, wants to talk about Olive not as saint, but as author.  The film gets a lot of mileage out of comparing Olive to Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter, and it certainly makes for some striking visuals (and ensembles) – but Olive runs circles around dumb old Hester when it comes to fucking owning it – another narrative Olive reshapes to her ends (the film is full not only of Olive’s personal-address webcasts, but footage from old films from dawn-of-cinema to brat pack; Olive explains the world by taking bits of story and recutting them to taste, just like she does her outfits).  Contrary to what the poster claims, this is not the story of Olive the social outcast, but of a girl who seizes the narrative by the throat, over and over again, and makes it her bitch. Who learns to control the flow, and spin, and valence of information, and who most importantly, by film’s end, learns where the lacunas go, and where the line of disclosure warps and ends.  

Wood-Chuck

Also, Penn Badgley occasionally pops into the story dressed as a wood-chuck. Because this is (ostensibly) a rom-com, however, he has a decidedly better time of falling in love with a lunatic devoted to a mission of self-ruination than that one sexy monk from PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC does. Better hair, too.

Either way, the film is about the slippery way story shapes being.  At one point, Lisa Kudrow’s late-arriving character declares that Olive “can’t be a slut because sluts can never admit it”, but Olive is already well on the way to realizing the opposite is true: you can’t be a slut unless you let someone tell you you are.  Kudrow’s hissed, staccato “who would you believe?!?” when Olive threatens to speak truth to cuntiness is only the opposite side of Kudrow’s “whores lack self-awareness!” coin: approval of the Non-du-Pere granted, and rescinded.  Olive don’t play that game.  Her final address to her webcam made me cheer in my seat; if every girl in the audience had the same revelation, we would have an apocalypse (the best kind) on our hands. 

The film is getting a lot of comparisons to Saved, and I suppose that’s fair – but unlike Saved, Easy A refuses to stabilize Olive’s moral compass; it lets her twist in the wind, and decide for herself what the ethical thing to do is.  It both refuses to make organized Christianity the (only) bad guy by making the Jesus-freaks a vocal but by no means monopolizing group (characters distasteful and pleasant alike both express their contempt for Amanda Bynes frankly staggeringly genius turn as an honest-to-God psychopath – don’t retire yet, Amanda Bynes! I don’t know who you are, but obviously you are AWESOME!), and by much more realistically identifying the (cartoon) mob not as Christian maniacs, but normal kids – even former best friends.  Olive’s parents are cavity-inducingly wholesome (the film may well have been pitched as “what if Burton’s Catwoman had had a stable and supportive home-life?”) but they are also patently clueless, as are her teachers – in fact, the film twice pulls a neat reversal with its faculty where Olive becomes not their pupil, but their, well, redeemer in the most gratingly Christian way – she suffers, and takes on their sins, so they don’t have to.  Saved is about looking at the dumb motherfuckers of the planet and saying “you know what? Fuck ’em.”  Easy A is about how you’ve got to rescue their dumb asses from the cave, too. 

Bernini's Teresa of Avila

"Communion with God? Well, it's like an angel, shoving an arrow made of molten gold repeatedly into your crotch until you dissolve into inundating folds of orgasmic pleasure." Teresa makes being raped by the Divine seem not so bad, but Olive (and Jaye Tyler) may have a different take.

The story of Abraham and Isaac bothers a lot of people because they trip on Isaac – it’s tough not to sympathize, after all, with the kid who’s dutifully preparing his own sacrificial altar because daddy has a notion (and if you think that’s fucked, try reading the infinitely-more-fuckeded story of Jephthah and his daughter, which has the same beginning but significantly one less handy goat). 

But the point of the Abraham story, and the reason he is the father of the People of the Book, is because he was willing in that moment to give up the thing he loved most, defy every instinct, and every ethical code – just because God said to.  That’s the part about religion that terrifies people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.  Because it’s crazy, and gross, and means you don’t even really exist – you’re just the universe’s butt-monkey (and if you haven’t watched Wonderfalls before, you really, really should).  Olive does the crazy thing, the thing everyone tells her is wrong (including herself!), just because she knows it’s what she has to do (the scene of her attempting to find solace or guidance in religion, and repeatedly getting shit on, INCLUDING AN EMPTY FUCKING CONFESSIONAL, okay, is maybe my favourite bit.  Saved ain’t got SHIT on that bizness).

The film keeps trying to be a John Hughes movie.  With apologies to John Hughes, thank God it isn’t.  It’s uneven, and rough, and in places feels like a tonally-wonky first draft, but it’s also fecklessly, scrappily charming, and if I had a teenage girl I’d make her watch it every fucking week. 

And if anyone can explain WTF is up with all the oranges in every single shot, I will give you a dollar.

Final Score: 8.4/10