Faith Review – Easy A (2010)
by Jeff Smith
Film Title: Easy A
Year: September 17, 2010
Directed by Will Gluck. Gluck has directed Fired Up (2009), Easy A (2010), and is in post-production of Friends with Benefits (2011) starring Justin Timberlake. He also co-created the Fox television situation comedy show, The Loop (2006-2008). Gluck’s directing thus far, has been focused mainly on comedy and his films have focused on high school themes.
Original Release Form/Venue:
Originally released for theatres.
Current Availability and Formats:
Released onto DVD and blu-ray disc on December 10, 2010. Available on Netflix.
Comedy – PG 13, 92 Minutes
The plot is central to this film. High school student Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) finds herself the victim of her school’s “rumor mill” when she lies to her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about a weekend hook up with a fictional college freshman. Word quickly spreads of Olive’s promiscuity and, much to her surprise, she welcomes the attention. When she agrees to help out a bullied friend by pretending to sleep with him, her image is tainted and her world begins to spin out of control. As she helps more and more of her classmates and her lies continue to escalate, she seeks to find a way to save face before the school’s religious fanatic Marianne (Amanda Bynes) gets her expelled and she loses a shot at regaining her reputation.
The film is told from a first person narration. Olive tells the viewer the story in five parts as things continue to unfold. Her narration gives insight to her truthful feelings about how she likes the attention, hates her reputation, and wishes she had never got caught up in a sea of lies. Her character is key to the entire film, as she changes from the shy smart girl, to the school whore, who eventually finds herself outcast and trying to get back into good graces again. The development of her character and the unfolding backdrop of her lies, draw the themes that are central to the films message.
Film Language Elements:
There are several elements that contribute to the overarching theme of the film. The lighting of the film is generally dark, particularly all the scenes shot inside, which is not a coincidence since Olive is moving toward a darker character. Olive’s dress shifts from conservative to very revealing throughout the film. As the rumors about her promiscuity spread, the camera speed of motion has been edited to fast forward in order to enhance and accentuate the speed of which information travels.
Audience/Cultural Context Elements:
This film’s intended audience is teenagers, college students, and people in their younger 20’s. The script is about a teenager who gets into a spiraling mess. The film targets those who find their identity not in who they are, but in what others think of them. In addressing this, the film attempts to show the stark realities of high school and expose the truth of the difficulties that students face in a comedic and sometimes slapstick way. The film also deals with other stereotypes, particularly the “Christian” group who over dramatically comes across as gossipers, hypocrites, and crazed “Jesus freaks”. The director is choosing to take a simple reality of most perceived Christian groups and blowing it way out of proportion, while maintaining some truth. The film addresses the reality of our culture – how others struggle with finding their identity, or choose to trade it in for a new one. Yet the film purposely uses unrealistic responses of parents, unrealistic responses of students and teachers, in a humorous way to address the overarching issue of identity.
Theology is Found:
Theology is not intentionally expressed within the film, yet the film has moments where theology rears its head. For instance, Olive finds herself with a reputation and there are many outcasts (gay, obese, ugly, etc…) in her high school who are coming to her hoping that she can “help” them by admitting that she slept with them. This would boost their reputation, so they are no longer seen as outcasts. She agrees to help them – which tends to be her downfall throughout the film. As she “helps” she becomes the victimized one. Also, the group of Christians who gather together at lunch to pray, are quite hilarious to watch and listen to because they are so absurd in their actions and yet there is such a strong sense of truth that is evident behind all the outrageous humor.
Theological Themes for Conversation:
Identity – Who am I?
Identity – Being someone I’m not to be accepted by all
Lies – how lies spiral out of control
Outcasts – how others are perceived and treated based on sexuality, looks, and intelligence
Hypocrisy – Christians perceived as “holy rollers” and better than others
Judgment – “Casting the first stone”
Helping others who are outcast
Suggested Use of Film:
This film is best used as a critical challenge to the understanding of theological themes. Because theological themes aren’t explicit within the movie, there are themes that can be brought up or challenged based on the plot of the movie.
Recommended Amount/Parts of Film to View & How to View It:
Ideally, this film should be shown in its entirety before any conversation takes place, because the film builds on itself and Olive’s character develops all the way throughout as her lies continue to spiral out of control. I think it would be best to watch it together and then potentially go back to specific clips in the movie to discuss together. You could also have everyone watch the movie on their own and then once gathered refresh them with particular clips for discussion. I think this movie could be shown in its entirety to a collegiate group, or to a group of adults.
If you’re intended audience is a high school youth group, then I would not show the movie in its entirety because of the language issues and the sexual content. You can use particular scenes to draw out theological conversation, without showing the whole film, but you must properly set up the scene in its context so they can grasp what’s going on.
This film is rated PG 13 but the language within it is really too much to show to a group of high school teenagers. Ironically it deals with the real issue of identity that they all will struggle with, but the sexual innuendos and language should strongly caution you to do so.