Wit is dead. That was my assumption about comedy flicks until I went to the theatre last weekend. It had been so long since I’d seen a sharp, intelligent, heart-felt comedy, I’d pretty much given up hope and relied on British movies and cable television for my fix.
I get that we’re in the era of YouTube. And I love a good, fall-on-your-ass gag as much as the next girl. Heck. I watch Wipeout every week just to see people land face down in the mud. But we’ve had so many slapstick comedy movies over the past five years, I feel like I’ve binged on Halloween candy. The whole reason we love candy is because it’s not a meal. It’s decadent and a rush. An occasional treat.
When Easy A kept me entertained, engaged, laughing, and just plain respected in the theatre. Damn, I was happy! I soared out of the theatre like a teenager in love. THAT’s what a comedy should do.
So, what did Easy A do right?
1. Gave us a smart heroine. From the first frame, we connect with her, we like her, and we know she’s smart. She’s different enough to be original, but still wants all the same things we want(ed) in high school. Basically, she’s the person we imagine/wish we were.
2. Admitted the inspiration right away. By the first few scenes of the movie, we know that this is loosely inspired by The Scarlet Letter. You know it. I know it. And the characters in the movie know it. Then, in good comedy fashion, they have fun with it.
3. Respected the age group. So many films make teenagehood look fun or stupid. Who are we kidding? High school is war. Every day is a battle and no one gets out unscathed. Easy A doesn’t back away from the clichés (which we’ve all lived) but treats them with compassion and wit.
4. Cast top-notch actors as the adults. The parents and teachers got as much cred in this film as the teenagers. They are funny, clever, and kind. Are they an idealized version of the parents/ teachers we wish we’d had? Absolutely. But I was happy to engage in the fantasy. Especially the one with Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as the wittiest parents on the planet. Sign me up.
5. Acknowledged the real inspiration. Easy A is an homage to John Hughes. From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to The Breakfast Club to Pretty in Pink, this was the best possible love letter to Hughes. And instead of trying to hide it? They offer it up on a genuine, character-related platter. Et voilà. The audience is let in on the true heart of the film. Masterful.
Easy A respected the teenage comedy genre just like John Hughes did. And that is high praise indeed.