Character Crush: Olive and Rosemary Penderghast from “Easy A”

Welcome to the end. The end of these (Fictional) Women’s History Month posts, that is! Though they may be lighter fare, I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey so far!

I’m closing out this series of posts by talking about characters from what is definitely one of my favorite movies, Easy A. I actually debated writing about these women because it felt too obvious, but my bestie and Super Hubs both feel like this is a severely underrated movie that doesn’t get enough love, so here we are! I also felt like it would be hard to talk about movie characters without just talking about the women who portray them, but I guess if I was able to get through the TV characters without falling into this issue, I guess I can manage here!

Shall we get to it?

Easy A_movieinsider

What is there to say about Olive Penderghast, the main character of Easy A fruitlessly brought to life by Emma Stone in her first starring role?
She’s flippin’ awesome!

Olive’s top quality is undoubtedly her (sometimes awkward) wittiness. A quality she obviously gets from her parents (more on that later), it’s apparent and consistent from the very beginning; even in moments of extreme discomfort, Olive manages to dig deep and pull out a witticism. I think she embodies a more accessible version of what I love about Ellen Page’s titular character in Juno—Olive is probably too smart for her own good, but she communicates in a way that isn’t alienating for anyone (whether they’re another character or the person watching).

The next quality that stands out about her is how she tries so hard to make the most out of a shitty situation. When the (fake) news of her lost virginity spreads through the school, she takes it in stride, assuming it will just blow over as soon as the new piece of gossip comes out. As the rumors keep spreading in the face of her sudden business as the Girl Who You Can Pay to Pretend You Sexed Up, she 1) has that business to begin with and 2) leans into the way her ostracism perfectly coincides with their lesson on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter by adorning a bunch of bustiers with a red A. In her mind, she’s helping out some nerdy guys who just want their names to matter for once (even in this meaningless way) in a way that she can arguably control, and if the only people who are really mad at her are the religious fanatics, then who cares? It’s only when things really start to take a turn for the worst—losing her best friend, being caught in the middle of her favorite teacher’s broken marriage, and having a date who tries to take advantage of her—that she drops the facade for a bit and wonders whether her ability to roll with the punches has just left her too battered to go on.

I think that’s one of the movie’s best qualities, honestly. Olive thinks she’s got this whole situation under control because she understands how fucked up the system is. If she goes into it knowing that teenage girls are going to be judged no matter what they do, then how could she get hurt? But she gets hurt. Her message gets twisted. Other people get hurt in the process. She learns that at at a certain point, you can’t keep letting other people speak for you; one way or another, they will misrepresent you, and that misrepresentation is often what comes to define you. As cliche as it sounds, this is an important lesson for teenage girls to learn. Hell, it’s important lesson for anyone of any age of learn; I’m still learning it, I think.

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As I said, Olive’s parents are most definitely one of the factors attributing to her wittiness. They are also my absolute favorite part of the movie, so I have to talk about Rosemary Penderghast, played to perfection by Patricia Clarkson.

Rosemary is the mom I aspire to be. I have no idea how one gets to her level of mom-dom between giving birth and having a teenage daughter and an adopted black son, but I need to follow those exact steps (except my adopted black son would probably be an adopted Asian daughter, as my sons would be black naturally lol) because she is the tatas.
I also have to give a quick shout-out to Stanley Tucci’s Dill Penderghast. Seriously. Parenting goals. They are perfection.

What I love about Rosemary is that even though it’s clear that she has a very casual relationship with her children, there’s never that feeling of “Okay, at some point, someone has to be the parent.” She still puts her mom hat on; it’s just bedazzled and sitting at a jaunty angle.
Throughout the movie, it’s clear that Olive is going through some kind of crisis, and Rosemary checks in with her at various times, offering simple advice or simply saying that they’re there to listen if things have escalated to a point that warrants parental concern or intervention. But she (and Dill) never unnecessarily inserts herself into Olive’s business because she trusts her daughter to handle problems on her own. Even when Olive makes choices she doesn’t quite like—her newfound penchant for dressing “like a stripper”—she still respects Olive’s ability to make that choice.

In the end, when Olive comes to her mom and reveals everything that’s been going on, Rosemary doesn’t reprimand her for getting into this sticky situation to begin with—maybe because no actual sex occurred, or maybe because she’s just that cool. She just tells Olive a story from her own youth about letting one’s reputation get away from them and how it’s up to her to set it right.
And because a heavy moment needs a bit of levity, we have Olive responding to the story of her mom sleeping around (and being too flexible) with this:

Easy A gif

I can’t express enough how huge a part the relationship between these two characters (and this whole family in general) plays in my love for this movie. Even though these scenes are not the focus of the movie, they are at its heart in my mind.

Whomp! There it is! I hope you enjoyed this final installment. I’ve enjoyed taking this little breather from my super hectic work schedule to just chat with you all about some of my favorite fictional people. I’ve got one more thing in store for you (hopefully for the end of the month). Other than that, we’ll be back to swimming in uncharted territory in terms of what I talk about! I may do a “quarterly review” to just bring you up to speed on my reading/watching habits in 2017 thus far . . . We’ll see how I feel!!

May your anticipated film franchises have perfect casting,




Photo Credit: Famous Fix
Photo Credit: Movie Insider
Photo Credit: Collider

One thought on “Character Crush: Olive and Rosemary Penderghast from “Easy A”

  1. Mariana

    Hi Nikkie,
    I watch this movie every once in a while . As I was watching the scene where Olive confesses everything to her mom and how Rosemary handles the situation, with so much love, trusting her daughter … I felt exactly what you describe in your blog. This is to me , the heart of the movie. I love many things about it, but this is why I come back to it. My mother and I had a very similar relationship and Rosemary reminds me of her with her understated send of humor and her witting remarks. I’ve lost her almost 3 years ago and this movie brings her back to me . After I watched the scene I browsed to see if there was any comments about the relationship between them and I find your blog…Thank you for sharing your thoughts….It’s wonderful to see other people value this small part in the movie….

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