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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Easy A

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Despite its title, director Will Gluck's satire of high school life, "Easy A" (Screen Gems), confronts viewers with a tangled thicket of positive and misguided values that is anything but easy to negotiate.

And, in the end, worthwhile messages about the dangers of judging from appearances and the temptation to pigeonhole or belittle others are choked off, in Bert V. Royal's often clever script, by the implication that all Christians are hypocrites and that any consensual form of bedroom behavior is acceptable as long as it is honestly acknowledged.

Emma Stone stars as Olive, a clean-cut but lost-in-the-crowd teen living in ever sunny yet spiritually sterile Southern California. Though Olive shares a happy home life with her hip, understanding parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson), her dreams of being noticed by her peers, romantically or otherwise, are going nowhere.

Until, that is, she tells her best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), an entirely fabricated story about losing her virginity to a fictional community college student. Self-righteous born-again Christian Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears the lie and begins spreading exaggerated gossip about Olive's sexual exploits, calumny that rapidly snowballs out of control.

In a modern twist on the fate of Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter"—Olive is reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel of guilt and ostracism for English class—the falsely accused Olive suddenly becomes both a celebrity and an outcast.

Her desire to resolve the whole misunderstanding is forestalled, though, when Brandon (Dan Byrd), another friend who suffers constant persecution by bullies for being gay, appeals to her to stage a fake encounter with him that will establish him as straight. Soon a succession of social outsiders are bargaining with Olive for the right to claim that they have had their way with her, though nothing of the kind ever actually happens.

Understandably confused by her situation, Olive seeks guidance in the confessional of the local Catholic church only to discover, after pouring her heart out, that there is no priest on the other side of the screen.

This is in keeping with the steadily cynical view of faith that pervades the story, typified by the mindless or malicious personalities of Marianne and her evangelical cohorts who—acting very much in the mold of Hawthorne's Puritans—launch a campaign to have Olive expelled.

As Olive begins to emerge from the avalanche of misperceptions that have buried her true identity, various incidents make it clear that, while lying about sex is wrong, for the most part, any freely chosen sexual action—adultery, thankfully, excepted—is admissible.

The film contains a negative portrayal of Christianity, including Catholicism, a benign view of premarital sex and homosexuality, implied drug use, brief partial nudity, a venereal disease theme, some sexual humor, at least 10 uses of profanity and, much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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