This intelligent, frequently hilarious new comedy has been likened to Clueless, the clever 1995 film that set Jane Austen's Emma in a Beverly Hills high school. This is mainly because Easy A, directed by Will Gluck, is almost a California teenage update of Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the classic 19th-century story about a woman who becomes a pariah in her Puritan community after giving birth to a child in an adulterous affair and refusing to name the father.
Unlike Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, Easy A's heroine Olive (Emma Stone, right) does not actually get pregnant by anyone; indeed she is virgin. Academically successful, emotionally and intellectually precocious, but socially "invisible", she has barely been kissed. However, when she lies to her friend about losing her virginity, the conversation is overheard by the school's vicious head Jesus-freak (Amanda Byne). Within seconds the news has spread, with the result that Olive is ostracised as the school slut.
Because she is a decent sort, and because she has an engagingly naughty streak, Olive puts her new reputation to good use when a gay friend begs her to pretend to be his lover so that he can pass as straight. It works, and Olive is soon giving stud credibility to a variety of nerds and losers in return for cash or favours. This starts to have unpleasant consequences when she is sent to see the school counsellor (Lisa Kudrow). It also threatens a potential relationship with an intelligent hunk (Penn Badgely).
Because the film is really a homage to 1980s teen classics like John Hughes's Sixteen Candles, things turn out well in the end. It helps that Olive has delightful bohemian parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, both of whom have a ball with the zippy dialogue.
Stone makes Olive utterly believable. Such are her ability to deliver a line, her self-effacing charm and her good looks that she has been hailed as a major new star. On the minus side, the religious bad girls and guys are crudely drawn, their portrayal redolent of the anti-Christian bigotry that is all too acceptable in Hollywood.
The biggest flaw is that Stone's Olive is too good-looking and extrovert to be credible as a high-school nobody. Still, Easy A is the best teen comedy for some time and likely to be seen as the film that launched Stone to stardom.