Olivia Wilde delivers greatness in her directorial debut. Booksmart is a teen coming-of-age comedy destined to be a classic. It has the requisite partying, raunchiness, and humor of the genre. But takes the mantle from horny, brainless boys, and gives it to equally horny, intellectually enlightened girls. Stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever take likeability into the stratosphere. Their friendship dynamics give a whole lot of heart to the infectiously funny plot.
Molly (Elizabeth ‘Beanie’ Feldstein) is her high school’s student body president, class valedictorian, and authority on just about everything. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) is Robin to Molly’s Batman. She’s her shy best friend, class salutatorian, and an out lesbian; who’s not quite sure how the actual lovemaking goes. The pair have excelled academically, proudly flaunting their acceptance to Yale and Columbia. Their achievements are respected, but mocked as arrogant and conceited by classmates.
Everything changes for Molly and Amy the day before graduation. An awkward incident makes Molly rethink their fastidious approach to life. She can’t leave high school without going to one party. The popular and handsome Nick (Mason Gooding) is throwing an epic graduation bash while his parents are stuck on a cruise ship. Molly and Amy decide to attend. Amy can pursue her girl crush (Victoria Ruesga), while Molly can show Nick she’s not a stiff. If only they knew the address of the party. Their search for the soiree turns into quite an adventure.
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Molly and Amy are insane overachievers, but represent the best qualities of modern day teenagers. They are culturally aware feminists who genuinely want to do good in the world. Their youthful earnestness and nerdy personalities win you over from the start. It’s a laugh riot when the girls get their first hint of the drugs, sex, and partying lifestyle. The situations and interactions they face are supremely comical. They discover a lot about themselves on the journey. And that they were too quick to judge others.
Booksmart has the emotional impact of a John Hughes film. That’s an impressive accomplishment from Olivia Wilde. Her characters feel genuine. You develop a fondness for them that grows as the film progresses. This also extends to the fantastic supporting cast. The ensemble players add just enough colorful distinction to shepherd the leads through the plot. It’s important to note that Booksmart isn’t just a riff on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Sixteen Candles. The female perspective and intelligence of the characters add substance to the comedy. But it doesn’t go overboard by trying to be politically correct. There’s a modern day realism that’s very well done.
Superbad launched the career of Jonah Hill. Booksmart will do the same for Beanie Feldstein, his younger sister. She and Kaitlyn Dever rank amongst the best “besties” to grace the silver screen. Their relationship is the foundation of Booksmart and the primary reason the film is so entertaining. These Valley Girls are a welcome change from the Hollywood norm. Booksmart is not to be missed. The film is produced by Gloria Sanchez Productions and Annapurna Pictures with distribution by United Artists Releasing.
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