Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Film Re-Watch & Re-View: "Easy A" [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

A woman’s virginity is a fragile thing. A woman’s reputation once she’s perceived to have lost her virginity is an even more frangile (and usually worse) thing. To sleep around is to embark on the cardinal sin of not being defined by a men’s perception of a woman, and to simultaneously incur the wrath of other women for her liberality. A woman like this is tainted, particularly if she resides in a small town where reputations are sometimes all that matter.

... But what if her reputation is actually a lie?

Easy A is a movie that delves into the topics of the fragility of reputations, how society defines a woman’s right to sex and sexuality, and what it’s like to have truly awesome parents. Seriously, can I borrow Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci for the next sixty years or so? I’ll give them back. (Maybe.)

Sourcing its plot primarily from The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathanial Hawthorne (and paralleled in the fact that Olive and her class read and study book throughout the film), Easy A circles the issue of a woman’s right to sex and how lives can take over both our lives and our reputations, whether perceived or real. This is also a movie touches on how we deal with both aforementioned topics within the twenty-first century.

The simple thesis statement to the topics above is that fanatical thought never really dies out while people are scared, threatened, or jealous. The complex thesis statement is one that Emma Stone's alter ego Oliver explores through the circumstances that rapidly spiral out of control for her.

What I love and respect about the way they treated Olive in the movie was that she was genuinely a good person. She did not do things out of spite, and she definitely made some bad judgment calls in the name of being too nice and too giving to her friends, rivals, and teachers. (Seriously why was she best friends with that one chick? I don’t get it. The girl is not best friend material.) She was human and definitely not the perfect character that men tend to write for female protagonists. She makes mistakes, isn’t always right, and lets her niceness get in the way of her best interests, as we all do at some point or another.

Olive genuinely struggles to do the right thing at the right time, but she’s smart enough to realize that you can’t fight a reputation. Words are cheap, and she’s not particularly interested in correcting those perceptions when it’s apparent that everyone is noticing her for the first time in her life and she's rather enjoying it. Olive is temporarily swayed by the golden truth that her name is the name on everyone’s lips in and out of school. She’s being noticed after years of blending into the background. That's appealing.

Ultimately, though, it's her goodness that compels her. She’s swayed by the idea of someone in need. A boy is being beaten up for being gay. (Shocker for a film that is set in a small town, I know.) She decides to help him out by pretending to sleep with him, because getting rid of a reputation for being gay is as easy as sleeping with a girl, apparently.

Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Olive’s life is turned upside down because of the lie she perpetuates, her need to protect others, and the bizarre desire of others to control a woman’s sexuality, even if only in name. Olive’s non-friend sums up society’s weirdness about sex perfectly when she makes the point that having sex with one guy is different than having sex with a lot. It’s not okay for her to be a virgin, and it’s not okay for her to sleep around. Olive is not allowed to be promiscuous or sexually aware, but she’s also not allowed to be chaste. She’s especially not allowed to be popular with the male population for any of these reasons, too.

Easy A explores the duality of this particular problem without really giving a definite solution. What it does do well is give Olive her voice. It allows her the chance to speak the truth and set the record straight. Everyone around her – save for her parents and Todd – spends the movie talking for her and about her, which she finally puts an end to with a live-stream of her story. She finds her own voice and her courage. Olive's story is proof that the truth is always harder to get across to someone than a lie. When she took back her story, she regained her sanity. She stopped wearing the "A" at the same time, and she finally allowed herself to be wooed by Woodchuck Todd, in a steady homage to every 80s movie ever.

The movie is not only a feminist message of agency, sexuality, and strength -- it’s also a sassy tribute to offbeat women, teenagers who don’t quite belong, and people everywhere who have been victim to gossip and hatred because they are a certain unpopular thing. It’s uniting and heartwarming.

And if all that other stuff isn’t your cup of tea – the script is ridiculously funny, Emma Stone is ten degrees of charming, and Woodchuck Todd (played by the ridiculously handsome Penn Badgley) is the sweetest tractor riding woodchuck mascot to ever grace the silver screen. It is well worth the time, and the long minutes and two Google searches later spent trying to figure out how to pronounce Ojai.

Easy A is easily an A+.


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