A coming of age story that’s so fun, you won’t realize how much heart it has.
IMDB Synopsis: On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
What immediately struck me after watching Booksmart for the second time, was how much warmth there is in it. In the script, in the performances, in the production design. The second thing that I thought about was how much fun it was to watch and I can’t wait to watch it again in the future. The directorial debut of Olivia Wilde sets our co-leads on the eve of high school graduation. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are presented as studious academics—the former is Valedictorian—yet social outsiders. They aren’t exactly uncool, but they aren’t popular and quickly they hatch a plan change their social image in one night. Not an original story, but that doesn’t matter.
Molly, is a Type-A, hyper focused, laser-sharp alpha, while Amy is a more shy—just as whip-smart—queer feminist with a heart-of-gold. It’s clear the two characters (and actors) show an insane level of comfort and chemistry with one another that holds our attention, regardless if it’s an impromptu street dance, a wardrobe change montage, or the devastating emotional party scene. As the duo jet from scene to scene, Wilde highlights what it means to be a teenager: social anxiety, unbridled joy, half-baked plots, heartbreak, anxiousness, and shared experience.
This film is unfairly compared to Superbad. And while I like Superbad, Booksmart isn’t that. Yes, it’s (very) funny and yes it has raunchy comedy bits, but Booksmart doesn’t play in the mud. The characters aren’t mean. By the end the high school grudges slough away, certain myths are dispelled, and all of the kids are socially indistinguishable—equals of sorts, through shared experience and genuine understanding. That’s the heart of the movie. That it doesn’t matter if you’re a fratty jock, an introverted nerd, a chill skater, a disaffected hottie, a garish rich kid or a misunderstood burnout, you deserve to be seen. And that we’re all experiencing this terrifying thing called life together, and that we essentially have the same hopes and dreams.
And beyond the messaging? Booksmart is a hell of a lot of fun. The soundtrack (Dan the Automator) breathes life into every scene. Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow have a couple wildly funny scenes as Amy’s parents. There’s a pool scene that’s gorgeously shot and acted. There’s a cringeworthy (in a good way) Lyft ride. There’s so much good stuff packed into this movie, I hope more people will discover it.
Highlights: The emotional crux of the movie in the form of a drunken and impassioned fight between Molly and Amy. And the fact it’s done as a one-shot (I believe) is even more astonishing.
MVP: My MVP is Kaitlyn Dever as Amy. We saw it in Short Term 12, but her range is incredible. From awkward to joyous to vulnerable to passionate to snarky, all in a brisk 102 minute package is outstanding.
Should you see it: Yes. 9/10. It’s so much fun.
Studio: United Artists Releasing // Original release date: May 24, 2019