With Inception clocking in at fourth and Toy Story 3 an easy choice for my third greatest film of 2010, it's time to select a runner-up and believe me if you had told me in 2009 that my second favourite film the following year would be a teen comedy I might well have had you sectioned. Truthfully, Easy A looked a little bit special from the moment the first trailers arrived and I am certain it would have been a firm favourite of mine even in years of richer film pickings.
I've read a lot of summaries that have claimed the film is based on, albeit loosely, The Scarlett Letter by Hester Prynne but in truth it is more an inspiration. Smart but socially invisible Olive fakes the losing of her own virginity in order to protect a gay school-mate from the vicious bullying he is subjected to at school. Unfortunately the jealousy and religious outrage that follows, along with a small crowd of social misfits that want Olive to help their reputation as well, results in Olive's reputation being blown apart and although initially she sees it as an opportunity to increase her financial and social standing, she soon realises she must find a way out.
The film carries with it a huge range of themes including family values, the consequences of little lies, bullying, high school politics, privacy, sexuality and its value and even community spirit. To its credit the film concentrates on these themes and makes them the focus rather than ruining the weight of the story with juvenile humour. This is not to say you won't get a laugh out of it, the script is fiendishly witty throughout and is delivered brilliantly by the cast.
Emma Stone's performance in this film is everything you could ask for from a leading actress. She successfully conveys the humour, absurdity and pain of Olive's predicament, but she also ensures the Olive is a living breathing character, unique rather than just a faceless photocopy of characters from other films. It is a performance strengthened by the supporting cast but in particular Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson who play Olive's unconventional but deeply supportive parents.
Aside from being unbelievably funny characters, the pair also form an interesting feature within the plot whereby the rumours that plague Olive are really restricted to her school. Although aware of and supportive of her problems, her parents refuse to judge Olive or try to persuade her towards a particular course of action. It is unusual and pleasant to see that a dysfunctional family is one problem Olive doesn't have to grapple with.
It is also apparent that although Olive capitalises on her newfound reputation, her motives are more altruistic than she admits. On several occasions during the film she is not convinced to fake impropriety until her imaginary partner reveals the extent of their personal abuse by the more popular kids. She almost never sets the price for her own services either, sometimes putting up with exceptionally small remuneration. This is interesting if only because much of the publicity and marketing for the film seems to portray Olive almost purely in the light of someone faking sex for money, almost as if the film-makers wanted to create a mirror image of The Scarlett Letter whereby everyone would think they know what Easy A was about while only those that have watched it really do.
It is difficult to describe Easy A as groundbreaking or even particularly original, but these aren't the reasons I'm recommending it. It comes from a very traditional history of strong, intelligent and heartfelt films that concentrated on doing what they did well instead of trying to do anything particularly different. Easy A may be nothing you haven't seen before but I'm willing to bet you've rarely seen it done this well, this richly or with this many intelligent laughs.
I also firmly believe that Easy A has a wide ranging appeal. It is a film I would happily watch with my mum, my girlfriend or my kids once they are old enough. It is hard to see anyone being left out here and although there are no doubt some that will manage to take offence at the film's sexual references, portrayal of religion or a parenting style that will no doubt conflict with certain people's views, the vast majority of people are going to lap this film up. Easy A is an unexpected treat: do not miss it!