Home > Uncategorized > Rambling ’bout a Valentine’s Day On The Fringe…

Rambling ’bout a Valentine’s Day On The Fringe…

I didn’t have a lot to do this Valentine’s Day.  The wife and I slept in as long as our 8 month old would allow (which was actually a pretty good sleep in) and then I got to reading a script sent to me.  I was prepping for an informal interview to 1st AD a short film coming up this March/April.  So around 2pm I headed over to the USC campus and met with the director at their new film school building.  We discussed the script in detail, basic logistical concerns and what have you, and proceeded to intellectualize the story which could easily become a very good character driven short film.  The whole while I was annoyed that the USC film school has a Coffee Bean in their lobby and food trucks lining their street where the best we had a Chapman was the Dairy Treat down at the corner – which was really only an option left for the bold, daring risk-takers out there.  Sure you could walk down to the circle and get some Cuban fare at Felix’s or any other great places to eat (which I loved), but this freakin’ Coffee Bean is in their lobby! Perfect for the film students who want to have quick meetings at a coffee shop, and then if they’re like me, order a lemonade or tea. I can’t stand coffee.

Adjourning at 5 I had to hurry home so we can begin our Valentine’s tradition of getting fast food, bringing it home and presenting it like a fancy homemade meal. Makes us feel like we’ve put some effort into our romantic day. With LA traffic I got home around 6 – just an hour long 6.5 mile trip –  I probably should’ve just ran there.   With an astronomical number of food trucks hitting the streets of LA recently we decided to venture out and sample some of their cuisine. We packed Boston up in the car and headed out to find a Brazilian food truck.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  A whole community of food trucks turning out delectable meals! That’s right!  Monday nights on Washington Blvd across from the Sony lot is this…Okay so the picture isn’t great, what do you expect when using a Blackberry camera? But what you can sort of make out in the darkness and blown out lights is a circled caravan of food trucks with folding tables and over-turned buckets for the guests to sit on.  It was like a bohemian, transient dining room. But we didn’t linger, we got our food to go so we can go home, put the kid to bed and then enjoy our meal and movie.  The meal presentation looked something like this…

What you see in the picture would be two Blue Moon Spring Ales, two Mexican Cokes, a chicken pastel, beef pastel, banana pastel (I never heard of a pastel until tonight but they’re delicious) and a Brazilian hamburger. That comes with fried onions, lettuce, bacon, corn, a beef patty and a fried egg.  Un-freakin’-believable. As for the movie we chose the high-school comedy Easy A starring Emma Stone.  It’s not available to stream on Netflix, which was pretty irritating as is the fact the HBO doesn’t allow their shows streamed on Netflix but that’s a gripe for another time.  So we had to order the movie on-demand, which seems a bit of racket. $5? Seriously?

Easy A is the story of Olive, an un-noticed straight and narrow girl who told a simple lie in order to save face in front of her friend and that lie spread like a wildfire through her school quickly earning her the reputation as the school slut.  Instead of a fighting the rumor, Olive embraces the new reputation, using it to help the seemingly “uncool” boys of her class look like sexual conquerors.  Each guy she fake hooks-up with gives her a gift card or present for the right to claim a sexual exploit with her.  This adventure obviously is doomed from the beginning as it continues to get out of hand and puts real relationships and emotions at risk.

The script actually works pretty well and has a few true laugh out loud moments.  I know the director, Will Gluck, continued to rework the script even the night before a scene was to shot as he was tweaking dialogue to fit with the actors and it worked. Which means, although a well structured and well told story, the strength of this entire piece lies solely on the voice of the actors; mainly Emma Stone. Let’s first look at the supporting cast that rounds out this little comedy.  Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are, for lack of a better word to describe what I mean, delightful in their roles as the parents.  Sure, you could argue that these parents are a little “too cool,” as their laissez-faire attitude seems more like it was written by teenagers as what they wish their parents were really like, but that’s what works.  All teens want their parents to loosen the leash and allow them to make mistakes so they can learn and grow.  That’s what made some of the parents from those classic 80’s films so great.  Molly Ringwald’s dad in Sixteen Candles, I can’t remember that actor’s name and I won’t look it up that’s cheating, was an ideal father for a 16 year old girl.  Understanding, funny, compassionate.  It’s how the parents of the protagonist are suppose to be in teenage comedy (except for John Mahoney in Say Anything… who was stealing all the money from your grandparents, the prick).

I though Thomas Haden Church played a great teacher, again the cool teacher that we all wish we had in high school.  He’s able to make great moments awkward and funny. Like approaching Olive, who is now dressing like a whore to embrace her new reputation, he says, “What the hell are you doing?” Olive: “What?”  He proceeds to stare at her, they both know something is amiss, and after a long pregnant pause he replies, “Don’t forget, tomorrow’s Earth Day.”  Simple!  But had me and the wife rolling.

The real strength with this film is two fold.  First, major credit needs to be dealt to Emma Stone who made the “misunderstood teenage girl” seem fresh for the first time since Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls. There is an undeniable charm laced with a caustic wit that makes her enjoyable (although almost always the same) in every role.  Sure, this could have been Wichita in high school before the zombies took over, but plucking her into this genre worked. She has great comic timing, she’s cute (not some plastic looking “bombshell” that will get all coked up and steal from jewelry stores), and best she can actually deliver a sincere performance.

The other strength is that this film is tongue-in-cheek.  It always knows what it is and in a small way deconstructs the teenage sex comedy by calling attention to itself in relation to the teenage comedies from the 80’s.  There are even elements of the teenage comedies from recent years, like Mean Girls and Saved! As Olive calls attention to the similarities from her life in John Hughes and Cameron Crowe films it makes us more aware we’re watching a movie that is fully cognizant of it’s own conventions.  We end up enjoying those conventions out of nostalgia, I suppose, because we all (in my generation) enjoyed those films and it was fun to see them recalled here as Olive gets to ride into the sunset with her prince on a riding lawnmower.

On a very quick note it should be said that while this film recalls the old greats, it never reached that full scope of those films because Easy A never tapped into the pathos of John Hughes. Hughes spoke to us like a fellow teen that was suffering the same high school dilemmas we were.  Which makes me sort of wonder, as I watched Hughes leading into my teenage years; did I love John Hughes because I suffered teenage angst, or did I suffer teenage angst because I loved John Hughes?

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