A coming of age comedy about girls/women, written by women, directed by a woman and starring two talented women. To the guys out there questioning if this is something they should check out, I shout: FUCK YEAH! I’ve seen some critics calling this a “female version” of Superbad, but Booksmart is a comedic classic in the making that doesn’t need to be compared to anything else. It stands on its own just fine and with pride.
Two high school besties are ready to show their classmates they’re more than just smart boring nerds who are all about grades and getting into college. Molly (Beanie Feldstein), prepping to become the Supreme Court’s youngest justice ever, and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), who’s too afraid to challenge herself. And after being out for the last two years, she still hasn’t kissed a girl. Molly will do anything to change their image and that is gonna get both of them in the most insane situations, the night before graduation.
Thinking they couldn’t get into those elite universities if they’d party all through high school, Molly gets the shock of a lifetime when she finds out that her group of energetic partying classmates got accepted to a wide range of highly regarded universities, just like she did. The graduation party to be, is that of Nick’s (Mason Gooding), vice president and senior chick-magnet. And to Amy’s surprise, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), an androgynous skater girl who Amy has been crushing on for ages, will also be attending. It doesn’t take long for Molly to convince her bestie to embark on an adventure that will change their young lives forever.
The road to the party doesn’t come without challenges. They get to spend time with supporting characters that at first hand look like unnecessary screen fillers. But even these additional scenes are full of life, and flesh out characters that usually get pushed aside. The most interesting of the bunch are by far awkward rich duo Jared (Skyler Gisondo) and Gigi (Billie Lourd). Jared thinks he can buy people’s attention and Gigi gets all clingy when crowning herself as Amy’s new best friend, popping up at the most unexpected times and places, “jumpscaring” our two heroines. Just to be clear, there is no weak character in the entire ensemble. Everyone is here to leave a mark and I’m so excited to see a cast this talented. The energy and realness they exude is so infectious, you can’t help but applaud and laugh at the sheer brilliance they bring to each one of their performances.
Feldstein and Dever must be best friends off screen, because the chemistry they share on screen is unreal. The compliments they throw at each other are funny in their own way and their comedic timing is off the charts. Stars in the making. Feldstein reminds me of Emma Stone starting her career in comedies such as Easy A, shooting her into stardom by getting nominated for a Golden Globe, later winning an Oscar for a musical (La La Land).
Where other female driven comedies tried to be just funny and very “girly“, this story shows a different side and that women act out just as much a guys do, if not more. A high school comedy for millennials, in which anxiety and expectations are put at the forefront and dealt with in the most realistic way possible. This makes Booksmart stand out from other comedies that take place in high school.
The screenwriters did a great job to let our two leading ladies have some time of their own to explore who they are as individuals and deal with their insecurities and fears in the final act. You can tell this is when first time director Olivia Wilde is having a blast, playing with different styles of techniques and blending genres. She knows how to pull these genre bending scenes off and still push it to a next level with every scene passing, surprising us with joke after bold joke, with unexpected empowering effects. This is also the moment where Molly and Amy’s friendship gets tested and defines how strong they really are as BFF’s.
Booksmart will be remembered years from now, it feels and looks like a classic and I haven’t enjoyed a film this much in quite a while. Noticing how much my emotions shifted during certain scenes on a rewatch, really confirmed to me how strong the writing and performances in this film are and deserves more than just praise. It deserves to be seen and acknowledged as a game changer for the genre. Respect.
Booksmart will play in Australian cinemas from July 11.
Review by Seth Eelen