Booksmart (2019)
Booksmart (2019)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: May 24th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Olivia Wilde Actors: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Billie Lourd, Molly Gordon, Diana Silvers

 


 

“G

ood morning, winner.” At the Le Capris Apartments near Los Angeles, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) awakes to a motivational speaker recording, which properly prepares her for her final day at the Crockett High School in California. Best friend Amy Davidson (Kaitlyn Dever) picks her up, sharing some laughs and dance moves as they enthusiastically absorb the nonchalant oversight of their last few hours as seniors. No one – including Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) – takes things too seriously, which is easy enough to do when surrounded by an incredibly colorful collection of students. Every clique is addressed and morphed into caricatures, creating quite a bit of comedy just in background conversations and behaviors; at several points, the classroom resembles something from a cartoon.

Despite their attentiveness to rules and regulations, Molly and Amy are pointedly rebellious in their language, continuously talking about various vulgarities and with excessive cursing. Most amusing, however, is their confidence and satisfaction with themselves; mild insults and ephemeral bullying are easily deflected by their positive attitudes and curricular accomplishments. Through the course of the picture, those laudable psychological veneers will be tested, yet they rarely succumb to the typical cinematic pressures of fitting in. “She acts like she’s 40.”

Molly’s acceptance into an Ivy League university helps boost her self-assurance, but when she discovers that three of her peers, whom she views as intellectually far beneath her, reveal that they too have promising futures and notable job opportunities lined up, she’s beside herself with remorse. Both Molly and Amy sacrificed all of their time to focus on schoolwork, while others somehow managed to balance good grades with regular partying. These rivals might be unrealistic, but it’s enough to prompt the two super-nerds into planning a wild night to make up for four years of teen-partying-sobriety. “We are not one-dimensional!”

Fast, frank, graphically sexual exchanges populate the script, but it never becomes grating. In fact, thanks to the abundance of considerably over-the-top personas (Jared [Skylar Gisondo] is likely the goofiest, hoping to buy his way into popularity, while Gigi [Billie Lourd] steals the show with her constant state of drug-fueled erraticism), the lead duo’s conferences are refreshingly down-to-earth. With the raunchy subjects and the escalating weirdness of the odyssey across town to locate the biggest party of them all, “Booksmart” resembles “Superbad” on the surface, though switched to the perspective of young women. Here, there’s a certain realism in the relationships, but that doesn’t often extend to the scenarios. The plot definitely veers toward fantasy every chance it gets, occasionally utilizing hysterical daydream sequences to visualize imaginations run rampant – or bombarded by psychotropic stimulants.

“Booksmart’s” premise will surely inspire comparisons to last year’s “Eighth Grade,” but they examine very different characters and almost diametrically opposite formative years. “Eighth Grade” dwelled on the awkwardness of identity, reputation, popularity, and self-esteem during youth; “Booksmart” deals with similar subjects but in a contrasting way, by sticking to the fun-loving, flamboyant, triumphant qualities of adolescence, embracing chaos over attempts at muted normalcy. Cringe-inducing moments still arise, but “Booksmart” uses the light drama, complicated romance, heartbreaking revelations, and foolhardy antics to transition the darker realism into airy hilarity. Plus, the central friendship is fantastic, made ever more poignant, different, and convincing by the stellar performances of Feldstein and Dever.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10