Easy A (2010)

Easily one of the funniest films of 2010, Easy A follows the likes of Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You as an update of fusty literature that reinvigorates the kind of material that nowadays only gets dusted off for the A-Levels.

A lot of that funny comes courtesy of Emma Stone. Too clued-up to be a mean girl but too pretty to be a member of the breakfast club, she’s a clique-free everygirl who every girl dreams of being. As Olive Penderghast – whose life is turned topsy-turvy when a rumour about her losing her virginity takes on a life of its own – Stone is the kind of spunky, smart-mouthed teen that we usually only see in John Hughes movies.

Hughes is a clear inspiration. Aside from a sweet-but-unnecessary closing boombox moment – and a loving Hughes montage – Easy A strikes out as its own thing. Hilarious, soundtracked-to-the-hilt and super-glossy, it’s sour apple bubblegum with real crackle and pop. And thanks to Stone’s breakout performance, it’s also very, very cool.

Truthfully, at times, just a little too cool. Olive’s parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) are the kind of down-with-it ‘rents that could only ever exist inside a movie, for example. But in its winsomely kooky characters and caustic wit, none of that really matters. John Hughes would be proud. 4/5

Friends With Benefits (2011)

When is a romcom that thinks it’s not a romcom really just a romcom? Uh, when it’s Friends With Benefits. A glossy, super-soundtracked puff of candy floss, Friends With Benefits wants to be more than just another generic romantic comedy (the film’s press notes continually and demonstrably use the word “pointed”), but in the end it’s nothing more than a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

That’s despite some snappy chemistry between leads Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. He’s Dylan, a high-flying Los Angeles art director. She’s Jamie, a New York recruiter. When Dylan’s head-hunted by Jamie and lands a job in the Big Apple, the two bemoan their inability to commit to relationships. The solution? Have strings-free sex without the messy feelings. Who are they trying to fool?

If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because a similar premise was cooked up for this year’s woeful Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher vehicle No Strings Attached. With its edgier leads and Easy A’s Will Gluck in the director’s chair, FWB already has a head start on the competition, and for a while it skates along nicely. Snarky and sarky, FWB opens by confidently lampooning romcom tropes (“Damn you Katherine Heigl!” Kunis screams at one point) while establishing likably eccentric characters.

It’s not long, though, before FWB loses its swagger. While promising a realistic romance, it can’t escape those clutching romcom clichés – picture perfect locations, boring, bed sheet-swamped sex scenes and sympathy-straining family plots mean it’s sterile and boringly predictable. Thank God for Woody Harrelsen, whose straight-talking gay co-worker frequently pops in to save us from the sop with a well-timed crack or a sentiment-free nugget of wacky wisdom. In the end, Friends With Benefits may think it’s better than most romantic comedies, but it isn’t fooling anyone. 2/5

Pearls Of Wisdom…

Courtesy of… Easy A (2010)

Olive Penderghast: Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in ’80s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an ’80s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life…