Booksmart, review

High school friends Molly and Amy are on their final day before graduation when they decide to have one wild night before they go their separate ways.

There was a time when high school movies were mostly gross out teen flicks which felt aimed at a small portion of the audience. Coming of age movies really are extremely difficult to crack, partly to do with the subject matter of kids growing up but also to do with dialogue. Olivia Wilde directs her first film with style and confidence to bring the whip smart script to life thanks to her understanding of modern teenagers and the casting of Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.

Starting with Molly (Beanie Feldstein) listening to an inspirational recording, we see quick flashes in her room including photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama and her Valedictorian sash. It cuts to outside to introduce Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) as the film is quick to establish the pair’s friendship, achievements, feminism, political views, fondness of each other and confidence. A few well-placed bumper stickers including one which says “Life Being at Perception” and another which says “Hot Flashes. Power Surges!” brilliantly adds to that. It may sound like a lot to cram into the opening minutes however it is so well paced and funny, you don’t even notice. What follows is a very modern high school full of a diverse mix including multiple ethnic groups, LGBTQ people, all shapes, all sizes. At no point does the film feel the need to go into the standard teen comedy trope of picking fun out of someone’s difference. The school is full of bright kids who are sure of themselves which is more confidence than arrogance. Whilst there is an obvious clique here and there, no one is bullied or made to feel small.

Our two heroes, who live in each other’s pockets, spent time together off set to make the bond on screen even more genuine. This is a factor that come through in the opening minutes of the film and continues throughout the 102 minute run time. Their consistent compliments to each other and the fact that they miss each other after one evening apart are two more wonderful things to enjoy about their relationship. Plus the fact that Amy’s sexuality isnt an issue and Molly is trying to help her get her first lesbian experience really adds to their dynamic. Just as they are preparing to leave high school, they discover that skipping all the parties and social aspect of school in order to study and get good grades hasn’t been totally worth it. To their horror, especially Molly, everyone else who has been enjoying themselves have also succeeding at school and have all accepted offers to prestigious colleges. Quite a blow to the ego but they plan to squeeze in years worth of partying into one night by going to the final shindig. What follows is a calamity of errors after they go from party to party, unable to find what they are looking for. Going from Jared’s (consistently hilarious fan of Molly played by Skyler Gisondo) boat party to discover very little going on and then to an elaborate murder mystery where they are each given characters. These scenes in particular are full of over the top humour which fit the film tonally including an utterly brilliant feminist take on Barbie-esque dolls and Billie Lourd consistently stealing the scene as Gigi who literally pops up everywhere.

The most striking aspect about this film is the natural qualities it possesses, the diverse school and smart kids who are so sure of themselves they are willing to stand up to authority for what they know is right. The conversations each character has with one another comes from a genuinely well thought script which make these scenes even more enjoyable. The supporting characters all have something interesting about them and become more than one more people. It veers into the ridiculous regularly, leaning heavily on rich kids and its infectious soundtrack. This feels like a game changer for the genre, an up date it desperately needed, coming of age is finally coming of age.

5 out of 5

Keep. It. Reel.