When I studied Latin, one of the first phrases I had to translate was from Virgil, “fama volat” or “rumor flies.” As a teenage girl in 21st century America, it was one of the most useful quotations I learned. English literature was always my forte anyway. It’s no surprise, then, that I was eagerly awaiting the opening of Easy A, a modern spin on The Scarlet Letter. Because I have read my fair share of essays where it’s clear the student hasn’t read the book, however, I was also a bit nervous. My nerves were quickly eased and Easy A ended up being the funniest, most enjoyable teen comedy I’ve seen since Mean Girls.
Easy A is the story of Olive (Emma Stone), a witty high schooler who is basically invisible to her peers until she lies to her best friend about losing her virginity. The rumor flies around campus and quickly Olive achieves infamy as the school harlot. Since no one will listen when she tries to set the record straight, Olive decides to embrace the attention. As her English class is reading The Scarlet Letter, she revamps her wardrobe to fit her new image and adds red A’s to her bad girl duds. Other students who are bullied or ignored figure out what Olive has done and she agrees to pretend to sleep with them in order to boost their reputations too. Quickly, the situation spirals out of control as Olive faces ostracism, losing her real friends, and other consequences of her make-believe misconduct.
My favorite part about this teen comedy is the way it pays homage to teen comedies of the 80s. The contrast between the backdrop of The Scarlet Letter and the ambiance of John Hughes films doesn’t sound like it would work, but the combination is adorable. Olive is a character with a great voice and a fun personality and her narration is quirky and clever enough to carry the whole film. Emma Stone does a fantastic job of playing Olive, making her a girl I’d really like to be friends with. She plays her insecurity without being weak and her scandalousness gives a nod to Mae West-era bad girls. As Olive’s parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are hilarious. They’re odd and affectionate and they create a family who is really fun to watch interact. Amanda Bynes is by far the weakest link in the cast, as her portrayal of the Christian girl trying to save Olive is somehow too hyperbolic to be funny.
Easy A is a hilarious, smart teen comedy with a wonderful cast and a clever twist on the way sex is usually used to sell the genre. I loved it. 4.5/5 stars
I also enjoyed Devil, the latest movie produced by M. Night Shyamalan. Because Shyamalan’s career has been so hit and miss (leaning more toward miss) in the last few years, I had very low expectations for this film. It just looked too campy to miss, though. While the marketing leaned a lot on Shyamalan’s reputation, it was actually written by Brian Nelson and directed by John Erick Dowdle, who created an intriguing, suspenseful movie.
In Devil, five strangers (Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Geoffrey Arend, Bokeem Woodbind, and Logan Marshall-Green) are trapped in an elevator when someone starts attacking and killing them. Their logical suspicion is that the killer is one of them, but Ramirez, one of the guards monitoring the elevators (Jacob Vargas, who also narrates) suspects that it is the Devil at work. Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) happens to already be on the scene investigating a suicide and he quickly starts trying to solve the crimes still being committed in the elevator.
Devil relies heavily on the classic notion that if you can’t see what’s going on, it’s scarier. So much of the violence in the movie happens when the lights in the elevator cut out and the result is a really suspenseful movie that isn’t downright terrifying. For me, that makes it a lot more fun. The plot of Devil is also pretty straight-forward. There are some twists, sure, but none of it feels overwrought. Instead the movie moves through a pretty simple story, but in such a way that the audience is trying to figure out who is killing people along with Detective Bowden and the security guards. It all feels like a game.
There are some pretty silly parts, such as when Ramirez tries to convince Bowden that the Devil is on earth by dropping his toast or the continued misadventures of the handyman trying to fix the elevator, but none of it really detracts from the simple enjoyment of this creepy, campy film. 3.5/5 stars.
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