Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow
Director: Olivia Wilde
It’s official, I’m too old to relate to high school movies anymore. There was a period in time after high school where I could still understand pop culture references and behavior, but I’m completely out of the loop nowadays. I kind of hope Wilde set up this school as a parody, because this is the type of school I imagine old conservatives think about when they talk about what’s wrong with the youth of today. There’s nothing wrong with the abundance of genders and sexualities out there in this film, it’s just very different from when I went to school and can be a little shocking at times. Regarding Booksmart, Wilde’s directorial debut shows us she has a real talent when she controls a movie. Pleasantly funny and incredible relatable for younger generations, Booksmart establishes itself as a perfect blend of raunchy, funny, and sweet.
The film follows Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever), two high school seniors who spent their whole time in high school focusing on academics so they would get into Ivy-league schools. Realizing that other kids in their school got into great schools while also having a social life, Molly and Amy decide they need to spend their last night as high school students finally going to a party and having fun like the other kids did. Naturally this doesn’t go as planned and the two spend the night getting in and out of troubled that they never thought they would experience. The thing that makes this movie so special is the chemistry between Feldstein and Dever. You can truly believe these two are best based on the way they communicate with one another and how they can bounce one-liners off each other with ease and their disagreements feel real and honest. This is great for a first-time director like Wilde to have as it makes her job significantly easier when she has two strong leads. I’m very curious to see how their careers develop after these performances, because they’ve shown audiences that they can handle the pressure of leading a movie. Speaking of Wilde, she made some pretty interesting decisions with how the movie would play out, but for the most part they all pay off in the best way possible. One scene in particular where Molly and Amy accidentally get high and imagine themselves as plastic dolls is one of the funniest scenes in the movie but also serves a purpose of promoting the ideals of the movie. Outside of the leads and Wilde, I think this movie will be influential to Generation Z in the same way that Superbad is to me and my generation or Fast Times at Ridgemont High is for Generation X. My inability to connect with certain themes and ideas would be the equivalent of high school students not being to understand some of the products in Superbad and that’s perfectly natural. The gender fluidity and vaping of Booksmart are the Myspace and flip phones of Superbad and help the targeted audience relate more to the subject. It’s interesting that Feldstein is the sister of Jonah Hill, one of the leads of Superbad, and I’m guessing he provided guidance that allowed Feldstein and Dever to have a similar chemistry that Hill had with Michael Cera a decade ago. With all of this in mind, Booksmart is still fundamentally funny enough to captivate all audiences with its combination of a heartwarming message and relatability to a point in our lives that all of us have gone through.
Overall, Booksmart is interesting, funny, and has a compilation of dynamic performances from the ensemble that’s been gathered. Very rarely do I see a directorial debut as impressive as Wilde’s and I hope she can continue this success in her future movies. Some people may not be able to comprehend what this new generation is doing, but that sentiment of navigating life at the cusp of adulthood is a feeling that is truly boundless.
Overall Score: 8.5/10