Easy A

Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, and Amanda Bynes star in a film written by Bert V. Royal and directed by Will Gluck.

Emma Stone may turn out to be the best comic actress of her generation. Besides her obvious quirky beauty, Stone has impeccable timing, shaping her almost rubbery features into wise guy grimaces and arched reproofs. “You’re going to answer to a higher power,” says one of the goody-good antagonists in Easy A. Stone screws her face into mock concern, “Tom Cruise?” she retorts. The joke itself isn’t very funny. Her delivery is devastatingly so.

There’s nothing wrong with this recent trend to script teen films as a cross between Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, and the Kinsey Report. In fact, Easy A seems like a standard-issue morality play about the hypocrisy of youth: the urge to be a bigmouth sex fiend confronting the underlying fear of experience. But Stone’s characterization of Olive, who has unwittingly cooperated in the making of her own slutty reputation, is rounded by sparkling humor. Her family life — it helps to have Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci for parents — is based on witty quips and the breezy knowledge that life is a dream, as long as your heart is in the right place. These qualities turn a sitcom fable into pure helium.

Better yet, the whole thing’s filmed lavishly in Ojai, and they didn’t forget to put in a Bart’s Books scene or to rib the New Age Hollywood subculture there, too. But the best part is Stone, who gave Zombieland its underlying panache. It’s a movie about sex without the bumps and grinds that proves nothing’s really as sexy as bright repartee.

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