Let there never come a day when movies like Booksmart stop being made.
Making her feature-film directorial debut, Booksmart comes from none other than TRON: Legacy and Drinking Buddies’ Olivia Wilde — an actress who’s now destined to be handed a lot more projects in the near future, as she comes in guns blazin’ with this one.
The film follows two best friends on the eve of their high school graduation, which is precisely the moment that the two of them decide they want to break free from the books and get themselves into the party scene.
No, it’s not Superbad, and it’s not Blockers, either. In fact, if you really want to go there, Booksmart is probably better than both of those movies, just if we’re being totally honest here.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are well-aware that their fellow classmates don’t perceive them to be the ‘party’ type of people. Sure, they’ve earned a reputation for spending their Saturdays nights inside of a library rather than staring down the barrel of a keg — but, the thing is, they don’t really care, either.
All of that rigorous studying was done with the hope — no, the belief — that they’d be able to get into really good colleges and, eventually, get really good jobs.
Their plan worked, too. Both Amy and Molly were accepted into top-notch universities, which means they should be able to just happily graduate and move on with their lives (together, of course, as a little distance isn’t going to put an end to this friendship), right?
If only it were that simple.
The two of them — well, truth be told, it’s mostly Molly as Amy is too busy day-dreaming about her last chance to talk to the cute girl at school, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) — stumble upon a startling discovery that they aren’t the only ones who are going places after high school.
Nick (Mason Gooding), the drunken jock who also, somehow, got elected as the 2019 class’ vice president, made it into Georgetown. Annabelle (Molly Gordon), the self-named hookup queen, is heading to Yale alongside Molly (Annabelle makes it clear that she will pretend that they don’t know each other if they ever cross paths on campus). Even Theo (Eduardo Franco), the well-known stoner who got held back in seventh grade on two separate occasions, managed to land a six-figure job over at Google.
Now afraid that they’re not different from anyone else and that they let the last four years of their lives go to waste, Molly and Amy only have one last chance to party with their classmates and prove to everyone that they aren’t as lame as they might appear to be.
That, of course, lands them into a number of different hijinks and scenarios as they realize they don’t actually have an address for the party, forcing them to search all through Los Angeles to find it.
It’s a genre — or sub-genre, at least — that we’ve seen before (again, Superbad, Blockers, that one Netflix movie coming soon that just looks terrible) and we’re going to see again. That’s fine. Not every movie that comes out needs to redefine cinema itself, and Booksmart seems like it’s pretty comfortable playing within the sandbox built on the backs of other films.
What Booksmart gets credit for is building things in that sandbox that are really clever, really touching and really, really funny.
Let’s get what is perhaps the most obvious bit out of the way first: Feldstein and Dever are comedic geniuses, through and through. Both of them have made a name for themselves prior to Booksmart — Feldstein in Lady Bird and FX’s What We Do in the Shadows and Dever in Short Term 12 and The Front Runner — but we’ve never seen either of them be this funny before. I genuinely hope that the two of them are not only going to stick around Hollywood for a long time, but that they continue to make movies together in the near future. Actors or actresses who have this good of chemistry together should not go to waste.
It’s not just the comedic moments that work so well between the two of them, either. While it’s not really until the third act when all of this kicks in — a third act which is exceptionally well done as it gives our characters such much needed time to breathe — Feldstein and Dever are also able to hang on to those dramatic situations, too.
Wilde, obviously, deserves all the credit in the world for Booksmart as well. There’s a very Eighth Grade kind of vibe to this one, meaning you get the sense that Wilde is likely tapping into a lot of her own personal experiences in order to make this movie. However she’s able to do it, Booksmart isn’t just a capably directed film, but it’s actually a remarkably well-crafted one. A certain dance scene and a separate pool scene both really stand out as a showcase for Wilde’s talent, which makes me want to see her get behind a camera sooner rather than later.
There’s a bunch of other really funny people in this movie, too. Along with the previously mentioned cast, American Horror Story’s Billie Lourd and Vacation’s Skyler Gisondo have some great running gags that probably should grow old after a while but, somehow, never do. Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte also sneak in there for a few scenes, and while their screen-time is brief, they’re able to get in a few zingers when they can.
In the end, Booksmart is exactly what the trailers made it out to be. It’s hilarious, it’s charming and it’ll give you that kind of high school nostalgia you might not have even known you had. I mean, I hated high school, and yet this movie still made me think back on my experience with at least some fondness.
So, please. Please please please. Go see Avengers: Endgame, Shazam!, The Curse of…wait, actually, DON’T see La Llorona, but go see whatever other big blockbusters are coming in the next couple of months. I love and will see all those movies, too. But don’t let something smaller like Booksmart slip off of your radar, either. This movie deserves your time. This is the kind of thing I want to see more of.
Booksmart will be released into theaters on May 24. Watch the trailer for Booksmart here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Booksmart' - More of this, less of everything else [REVIEW]9