Sometimes high school students get so caught up in their studies and preparing for their future that they do not take the time to live in the moment and enjoy the final days of their youth. Booksmart follows two bookworms as they try to party and cut loose during their last day of classes a few days before graduation. The film is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut with leading ladies Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Spoilers after the trailer.
The film’s plot has been done countless times before in other movies. Two strait-laced pretentious high school students that are the outcast of their class attempt to do something radical so they can fit in with their classmates. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends who have never done anything fun because they’ve been focusing on getting into good colleges; however, it turns out that their classmates who have been partying and having fun have also got into those same colleges.
Olivia Wilde’s direction shines early on in the film. The scene when Molly finds out that her negligent peers are going to elite schools such as Yale and Stanford, the camera does a close shot on Molly’s face while allowing the world around her to keep moving. This lets the audience capture the panic on her face and is symbolic of how Molly has always been focused without realizing the world around her has kept moving. Once Molly tells her classmates that they don’t care about school, Anabelle/Triple A (Molly Gordon) lets it be known that they don’t only care about school. A nice bit of dialogue that explains the mentality of Molly and Amy versus everyone else in the class. The scene functions as social commentary that no matter what you do – someone can put in half the amount of work you do and end up in the same spot.
What makes Booksmart different from similar films such as Superbad, Ladybird, mid90s and other post-2000 coming-of-age films is its unpredictability and the dynamics of the friendship between Molly and Amy. Molly is the alpha of the two, yet Amy is the one who’s more normal and doesn’t pick fights with all of their classmates. Amy being a lesbian adds a fresh twist when things don’t work out between her and her crush Ryan (Victoria Ruesga).
Wilde’s direction shines again once Amy discovers Ryan making out with Molly’s crush Nick (Mason Gooding), which causes an argument between Molly and Amy. Visually, the pair are arguing and yelling at each other but the audience doesn’t hear what they’re saying, instead the film uses its score to its advantage by adding an extra depth of emotion.
The humor throughout the film is vulgar, raunchy and unpredictable. There is a lot going on that once you think the film is going in one direction it does a complete 180 and surprises you which is why the film feels so fresh. By the time the movie is over you want to spend more time with the characters which is always a good feeling.
A Class of Characters
Booksmart is a film filled with fun and well-written characters that make it memorable from start to finish. Since Molly and Amy act like they’re better than everyone else at their school, it’s hard to feel bad for them when all the other kids leave them out of the parties that are happening this weekend. George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) are a dysfunctional couple who host a murder-mystery party that, unpredictably, transitions into a claymation scene. The claymation scene is a result of Molly and Amy eating drugged strawberries, as the pair are tripping out George, Alan and the other party guests who are puzzled by what’s going on.
The students aren’t the only ones who shine in Booksmart. The movie comments on how educators need a second a job, with Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) also moonlighting as a Lyft driver. Amy and Molly are taken by surprise when they’re picked up by their principal while using Lyft. There’s an awkward moment that involves a bluetooth speaker and pornography!
Later on while searching for the location of Nick’s party, they try to hold Pat the Pizza Guy (Mike O’Brien) as a hostage until he tells them where he delivered the pizzas. This is a hilarious scene because Amy and Molly have no idea what they’re doing and Pat patronizes them. He even pulls a gun on them before making them get out of his car.
The most awkward adult to student relationship between teacher and students is between the appropriately named Ms. Fine (Jessica Williams) and her class. Ms. Fine is the young and hip teacher that her class adores because she’s cool. She gives Amy and Molly a ride to Nick’s party and she ends up partying with her graduating students. She is a surrogate big sister to Molly and Amy after giving them advice and telling them that she used to be like them in high school and did a complete 180 while in college. Oh, and she hooks up with one of her students, Theo (Eduardo Franco), who is older than most of his classmates.
After being heartbroken, things ended on a good note for Amy as she kissed her first girl, Hope (Diana Silvers). Hope is the cruel girl who keeps to herself but when she talks people take notice. Silvers was perfectly cast because she had the right demeanor of quiet, confident and commanding.
The actress who stole the show throughout the film was Billie Lourd and her portrayal as Gigi. Every time Gigi appeared on-screen she was random and eccentric but never annoying. Gigi is the richest girl at the school and her classmates joke that she and her boyfriend Jared (Skyler Gisondo) are the one percent.
Lourd does an outstanding job with this character and what she is given. She may have 10 minutes, if that much, of screen time and she made every second count. Her character was mysterious but never felt vague and she could’ve been in it more to be honest.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is one of the best comedies that has hit the big screen so far in 2019. Booksmart is an unpredictable, raunchy comedy that has been boosted thanks to its wide range of characters. It may not have the box office success that Annapurna Pictures would like it to have, but there are going to be a lot of actors and actresses from this film that will breakout like the stars of Superbad over a decade ago. Kaitlyn Devers and Beanie Feldstein shine in their lead roles.
Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd especially shine the brightest in this one. This film was written and directed by women and the actresses brought their A-game to it. If this one is currently playing near you then I’d definitely recommend giving this one a viewing. If you’re interested in getting a sense of the movie before going to the theater then I have good news! Annapurna Pictures has released the first 6 minutes of the film on their Youtube:
[All Mames Wey]
Booksmart was released in theaters May 24, 2019.
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