Life on the "A" list

Emma Stone's easy A star turn
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Olive (Emma Stone) negotiates high school by way of Nathaniel Hawthorne (kind of) in Easy A.
PHOTO BY ADAM TAYLOR

FILM Take the sex out of a teen sex comedy and hone in on the heard-it-yesterday info overload of the highly social-networked '00s, and you get Easy A, a whip-smart striver looking to give a whole new definition to fast fiction. The brainy grandchild of 1930s screwball comedies and the knowing offspring of more recent spoofs of the Clearasil years like Clueless (1995) — with blood ties to the on-point pop of pater familias John Hughes — Easy A doesn't quite aspire to the grainy, your-so-called-reality of YouTube auteurs, à la The Virginity Hit, though Bert V. Royal's script is just as steeped in the culture of viral gossip and TMZ-writ-small, as well as the high-low literary and cinematic referents, that '80s babies-and-up were succored on.

Welcome to the postmodern mixed-up world of the girl who gets straight As, a marked contrast to all the bromancin' going down in other parts of the cineplex: Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is curious enough to venture fully down the rabbit hole of bad-girl schoolyard celebrity after fabricating a story about losing her virginity to placate her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka). Despite the swelling disapproval of Marianne (Amanda Bynes) and her virginal Christian fundamentalist crew, Olive's soon giving pity faux-fucks to all the misfits on campus in exchange for gift cards to big-box stores. Her hilariously staged tryst with classmate Brandon (Dan Byrd), who's sick of getting beaten up every day because he's gay, is up there with anything in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). And though Easy A often seems pitched more to adults, like Olive's wise-cracking parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci), its entertainingly self-aware fiction is still likely to bridge generational divides as much as anything on Facebook.

As the effortlessly clever, sexy Hester Prynne gracing almost every frame of Easy A, Stone (2009's Zombieland, 2007's Superbad) seems destined for some tragically geeky-cool teen-comedy hall of fame. Which is why a smart cookie like Stone — who didn't exactly draw from experience for her role, having clocked a semester of freshman year and home-schooled it the rest of the way — resists the high-school-comedy tag. Easy A "doesn't deal with high school rites of passage like prom and graduation," she drawls by phone. "It could apply to any age group — it just happened to be seen through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl."

The rapid-fire snap 'n' pop of the script was an added challenge for the actress in her first leading role. "It was just like memorizing a play," says the New Yorker. "In terms of the pressure, no one was scaring me or making me feel like it was a big deal if I messed this up — I was making me feel that way."

"I learned a little bit about how I worked," she adds, before a bit of Olive's bracing sarcasm kicks in, "over these three looong years ..."

EASY A opens Fri/17 in Bay Area theaters.

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