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Booksmart (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 2, 2020



Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Austin Crute, Victoria Ruesga, Eduardo Franco, Noah Galvin, Skyler Gisondo, Mason Gooding, Molly Gordon, Nico Hiraga, Diana Silvers, Mike O’Brien, Stephanie Styles, Deb Hiett, Bluesy Burke, Christopher Avila and the voice of Maya Rudolph.

Screenplay by Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel.

Directed by Olivia Wilde.

Distributed by Annapurna Pictures. 102 minutes. Rated R.

A wise man once said beginnings and endings are always the hardest. It would come as no surprise, with all the hormones and drama of high school, that the time leading up to graduation is one of the more remembered, reimagined, and filmed lifecycle endings.

For many, it is a time of triumph, of loss and nostalgia.

For best friends Molly (played by Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (played by Kaitlyn Dever), it is their time to escape. Both have spent four years insulated in their friendship, focused on their futures, and are ready to leave their seemingly small minded, party focused peers.

Molly is headed to Yale, a fact that as class president, she has not disclosed – student government has instituted a rule to not disclose school plans so as not to make other students feel bad, a rule of inclusion. She is proud of her accomplishment built from hard work and knows that her focus on work will be worth it.

Amy is headed to Botswana to help local women learn to make tampons. She is a feminist, an activist, and super nervous about going beyond just coming out as a lesbian with a hope to have a first kiss before the end of high school.

The two have been a lifeline for one another and share everything – inside jokes, secret celebration dances, and the desire to get out of dodge.

On their final day of high school, from her bathroom stall, Molly overhears some fellow students talking about her. It quickly goes downhill. Molly self-assuredly faces her slanderers and brags about her bright future headed to Yale. She finds out that her other classmates, who have spent the last four years balancing work with fun, are also headed to the top ten of prestigious schools, including a fellow future Yalie.

Cue existential teenage crisis.

Determined to not completely miss out on the fun part of high school, Molly and Amy decide to head to the last party of the year to prove to their classmates – and themselves – that they are fun.

I brought a recent high school graduate… well, just finished her freshman year of college… to see the screening of Booksmart. A year and a half earlier, we had watched Ladybird together and her reaction was stressed. It was too close to home to be enjoyable. Booksmart proved to be a far more enjoyable experience, while still being relatable. She was particularly impressed that the actors looked like real teenagers and that the dialogue was fresh and true to teen-speak.

Booksmart is funny and smart, without being condescending. It quietly weaves in story points and life lessons about assumptions and impacts. It will keep you thinking about film points far beyond its 1 hour 42-minute runtime.

Booksmart is an impressive directorial debut for Olivia Wilde and a beautiful win for its four female writing crew (Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman).

As a final note, in reverence to classic teenage coming-of-age film characters like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds and Lazlo Hollyfeld in Real Genius, party girl Gigi (played by Billie Lourd) adds some additional humor and mysticism. She is woven surprisingly throughout the film as Molly and Amy journey through their final night of their high school experience. In a star-filled cast, her performance definitely added some crazy fun.

In my humble opinion, Booksmart has earned every bit of its early positive buzz. I look forward to watching it again.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: May 24, 2019.

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