You Know What? Emma Stone Should Also Have an Oscar For ‘Easy A’

I’ve spilled a lot of ink recently about what makes Emma Stone so great in Poor Things, for which she received her fourth acting Oscar nomination this year. Bella Baxter is the kind of physically transformative performance that often wins awards—except there’s a catch. Aside from those long black hair extensions, Stone hasn’t altered her appearance in any noticeable way. Instead, what she does is simply use her face and movements to convince you that you’re watching this woman, built from the body of a suicide victim and the brain of her unborn baby, mature into a fully realized intelligent being over the course of the film’s runtime.

At first, Bella is babbling like a baby, walking with pigeon toes, and peeing herself. By the time it’s over, she’s a scientist herself, master of her own home, and has taken spectacular revenge on a man who has wronged her. The way Stone accomplishes this transformation is remarkably fluid; she throws her whole body into the proposition, using techniques of dance and clowning as she charts Bella’s journey.

Stone’s work in the past has been deservedly celebrated. She won an Oscar for her open-hearted take on the struggling actress Mia in La La Land, of course, and was nominated for supporting roles in Birdman (as Michael Keaton’s angry daughter) and The Favourite (where she schemed against Rachel Weisz to win the affections of Olivia Colman’s tyrant queen.) But all of that happened after Stone made the transition to quote-unquote serious actor with a string of increasingly prestigious projects. I think she deserved Oscar recognition for one of her earlier films: Easy A.

Now, let’s be clear: She did get some awards attention for playing high schooler Olive Penderghast, who becomes the target of rumors after lying about having lost her virginity and then starts a business where she pretends to have had sex with needy guys. She got a Golden Globe nomination in the musical or comedy category. But you don’t necessarily hear this one talked about in the pantheon of great comedic star-making moments, and it deserves to be.

Easy A marked Stone’s first lead role after supporting bits in Superbad and The House Bunny, and it’s incredible how much she owns the screen. It’s a high-school Scarlet Letter riff, but one of the things that makes it so special is that you can see the seeds of what she would eventually do with Bella Baxter, whether she’s throwing herself into a rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” or turning herself into her “slutty alter ego” as she struts around with an “A” on her corseted chest. Like she does when she’s playing Bella, she manipulates her face for both laughs and pathos. Olive’s sarcasm and her frustration feels utterly relatable.

Comedy is never valued the way it should be at the Oscars. Stone needs to be funny in a movie like Poor Things directed by an auteur like Yorgos Lanthimos to sneak it in. But she’s been doing it, astoundingly, all along.

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