Easy A does sort of stand for something: appeal. It’s a film designed for everybody, relating to those who like classic literature, ’80s movies, teen sex romps, a bit of romantic comedy, and satirical stabs at the drama of high school. It’s even stuck in a safe PG-13 even if it’s obvious that it was meant to burst out of those restrictions and head for the hard-R, the film trimmed and edited to avoid such an occurrence.
Emma Stone proves she can carry a film, playing a sort of dual role as the ignored, high-end vocabulary honor student and the girl who takes gift cards for having sex… fake sex. Her plot is ingenious, taking money from various guys around campus to both increase her own standing (if not her moral one) around school, and help the lower-rung of the social ladder get a kick-start on their cool cred.
Easy A zings everything about American high school life, from the wildly over-sensitive religious clique to the sheer awe of sex in the first place. The students hold Stone on some type of pedestal (good or bad doesn’t matter), staring in awe as she walks through the halls, something else she’ll take advantage of later.
Letting it leave reality every so slightly (school authorities are only concerned with her wearing lingerie to school, not tossing her out) is enough to give it that light kick to let things go where they might, all without questioning said events. It’s smart like that, witty too, this script from Bert V. Royal lively with its up-to-date dialogue. What’s a cow bell? Not what you think.
This loose update of “The Scarlet Letter” isn’t offensive to the sensibilities of the original novel or film adaptations (not that putrid Demi Moore thing) because it only loosely qualifies as such in the first place. Stone wears the “A” with pride, not as something to be shameful of, and it’s all to make a point. It makes a lot of points actually, from the disaster that gossip can create when spread thin to the overly puritan values we tend to carry with us in this country. There’s more to take out of this too, like how John Cusak’s classic boombox moment from Say Anything can no longer be recreated thanks to the advent of MP3 players. Thanks for nothing Apple.
Easy A was shot digitally, creating an image that is undoubtedly eye-catching if not very refined. The Panavision Genesis may produce the best black levels out of any of the digital cameras currently in use by the major studios (or even indie efforts), and this is one of those grand examples of them. Everything here is overloaded with dimensionality, the somewhat hot contrast aiding those tremendously deep, rich blacks throughout the entire film. Their only fault comes during a late night chat in a car between Stone and potential fling Penn Badgley. They soften up and lose their intensity, resulting in a murky effect that doesn’t match up.
The other positive is intense color, highly saturated with blazing hues that pop off the screen. Bold primaries are almost too much at times, clothing worn by classmates given added life thanks to the digital intermediate tinkering. It’s the right look for the movie too, a bit glossy and lively, matching the material. Flesh tones are fine, at times wavering into territory that looks slightly orange, but still not offensive.
Where this one falters is detail, refined, distinct detail. It’s just not there. Sony’s AVC encode is certainly not the culprit, handing even some low-light noise without succumbing to a layer of artifacting. Faces are smooth, unnaturally so, in close or at a distance. As almost always with the Genesis, environments are stunning. A scene in which Stone and Alyson Michalka chat on a hill looking down on the town is simply incredible. Exteriors of the homes, school, and other locales all on equal footing here too.
It’s that smooth skin from almost everyone in the movie that reveals the digital origins. There are close-ups of note, Thomas Haden Church having the majority of them, while the rest just falter and look wholly unnatural. Despite its clarity, digital never actually looks real. Other concerns in terms of intent are the rampant compression artifacts purposefully used in those narrating sections as Stone tells her story via webcam, and movie footage that is apparently pulled from YouTube (seriously, were there no better sources?).
There are some lively moments for this DTS-HD track, two of the main ones taking place at pep rallies inside the gym. The enthusiastic crowd, heavy music, and dominating echo are much appreciated. The finale, with a full-fledged musical number from Stone, comes alive in the surrounds with a prioritized center for lyrics.
A party sequence around 29:45 is on almost equal ground, music blaring with a thick bass line and party chatter scattered about the soundfield. Nothing is lost or overcooked, the mix working in the necessary elements without losing focus.
Ambiance is strong too, outdoor scenes peppered with birds chirping in the rears. It’s not overly aggressive, just a nice bit of sound design to set a believable sound stage.
A commentary from director Will Gluck and Emma Stone leads our extras, followed by a pop-up trivia track if you want. A making-of is standard, but well put together at nearly 15-minutes. Vocabulary of Hilarity is a brief five-minute piece on the dialogue in the film. School of Pop Culture details the ’80s high school archetypes. A gag reel, 19-minutes of Emma Stone audition footage, BD-live access, and MovieIQ support remain.