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Film Studies, Movies, Scene Analysis

Take Me Away: Efficient Editing & Emma Stone

If you’re like me, you have a crush on Emma Stone. I have yet to meet anyone – man or woman – who doesn’t love her. She’s talented, she’s funny, she’s gorgeous, she’s a ginger (or at least presents herself as one in public) – she’s got everything. But our culture’s sudden obsession with all things Emma didn’t happen overnight.

While she got her start in the Judd Apatow produced/Seth Rogen written flick Superbad, she didn’t truly launch herself into our hearts until 2010’s Easy A, an extraordinarily entertaining and surprisingly smart movie about a high school girl who, for her own purposes, perpetuates the false assumption that she’s sexually promiscuous. It’s chock-full of Stone-ey awesomeness.

Perhaps the highlight of the film, at least for its sheer absurdity, is a brief sequence towards the beginning of the film in which Emma’s character, Olive, receives a musical greeting card from her grandparents. Hilarity ensues:

See, isn’t that awesome? It’s a classic movie montage: a string of images edited together to quickly tell a story. But seriously, what kind of story can you tell about a girl getting hooked on a ridiculously catchy song? As it turns out, a pretty darn interesting one.

As silly as it may be, this sequence establishes for the audience many of the central elements of Stone’s character. We learn a whole slew of things about Olive: she can be a bit judgmental and sarcastic (“Worst song ever…”), but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. As she gets increasingly into the song, she shows her goofy side by sweetly singing it to her dog, breaking out some awkward dance moves, and making silly faces. She is artistic (painting) and crafty (sewing), and through the passage of time depicted on-screen we find out that Olive has a really uneventful social life, which is an important bit of information given the plot of the movie. She also shows herself to be brave; the sequence ends with her completely losing herself in the song and wailing away at the song’s chorus (“TAKE ME AWAY…”) without caring about who might hear her.

To director Will Gluck’s credit, the scene is shot in a way that reinforces some of the info that’s being imparted (and also makes it funnier). Throughout the montage, Olive is situated at various places within the frame, but the camera always remains static – that is, until the end of the scene. Only when Olive really goes to town on the chorus does the camera begin to move around her, heightening the excitement of Olive’s carefree moment. Then, all of a sudden, the music cuts out while Olive is still singing. The camera returns to being static, with no movement in the frame other than Olive’s sheepish look as she realizes how silly she’s been. A funny joke, a nice character moment, and a nifty little bit of direction.

Need something else from this scene? How about its subtle reference to John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when Olive sculpts her hair into a mohawk in the shower. A neat easter egg, and a nice way to place the scene within the canon of Hollywood teen movies.

And all this in sixty seconds of film! How’s that for efficiency? Now good luck getting that song out of your head.


About A.J. Simpson

Creator and moderator of I Wonder if You Wonder.


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