Emma Stone finally gets the lead in a movie, as she has clearly deserved since she appeared in Superbad. Lucky her, this movie is a tremendous vehicle for her. How can one teen girl be so impossibly cool, sexy, erudite, and funny? Any child of the on-screen union of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson would be — and thus any “she’s too prodigal” complaint goes right out the window.
The premise is simple — a sweet but invisible girl gets caught up in society’s terrible Puritanical double standard about women and sex when she lies about having had sex, and soon her life and reputation is in tatters. The very folks who pressured her to be cool and Do It now vilify her (and/or try and engage her services) for doing so.
My only problem with the film is the terrible misogynistic sense that a female’s value is entirely tied up in her chastity, rather than valuing this girl’s ample brains, wit, kindness, talents, even beauty, etc. The long-cherished historical belief that a woman is singularly only as valuable as her hymen is a repulsive message; tarnishing an otherwise a witty, funny comedy with that is lamentable and docked this review a whole letter grade.
Stone’s character Olive embraces the misconception about her loss of virginity at first, preferring notoriety to anonymity, but all the while crumbling under the deeply (and unrealistically) cruel double standards of her schoolmates. (These boys she is alleged to have had sex with are become cooler as a result of “sullying” her.) The movie does actually recognize this terrible Puritanical truth, and pokes ample fun at it.
As long as she retains her precious cherry and the rumor mill shreds it beyond even the “approved” rumors, the film plays it safe, and ultimately buys into the ridiculous fallacy: it’s OK that all this is happening to her, since she’s really still a virgin. If she had really done even one of those things, the film seems to say, she would totally deserve this condemnation, but since she’s guilty of nothing more than the sin of omission, we can still root for her.
It’s very disappointing to see a film to take such a sex-negative attitude when it could have used the positive teaching moment and still retained its charm and comedy. The stink of this attitude was too prevalent for me to otherwise totally fawn over the terrific comedy, the great performances, the stellar cast, and strong dialogue. Were the film’s undercurrent not such a hateful riptide, I would think the movie a solid Matinee with Snacks at least.
Yes, it’s that funny and sweet and clever.
It’s hard to ignore to the feeling that good teen comedy these days depends a lot on reproducing a classic 80’s teen comedy. Olive wants her life to be an ’80’s movie; Going the Distance is another 80’s styled romcom in the 2010 financial climate. Easy A seems to ignore the fact that if one high school junior has sex it’s taken as ready, if not pure mundanity, by 80’s and today’s teens. Not that one’s first time shouldn’t be a personally momentous occasion, but the rumor mill in Easy A‘s Ojai North High School treats her “initial” fake deflowering as akin to chopping someone’s parents up and feeding them to their child.
The moments that are trying to combat the Hester Prynne martyrdom and the many aforementioned merits of this film may only balance out to Rental with Snacks, but if you can ignore the sex negativity then by all means enjoy this terrific lead turn by Stone and her entire supporting cast.