Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Written by: Emily Halpern, Susanna Fogel, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman
Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis
Runtime: 105 min
The story follows Dever and Feldstein's characters (Amy and Molly, respectively), two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, suddenly realize that they should have worked less and played more.
Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night.
Last year, I missed A Vigilante from Olivia Wilde, and I still haven’t watched it. Over time, I gradually lost interest, and I might have even forgotten about its existence. However, after watching Booksmart (which arrived late as hell to my country), I’m definitely watching the former soon. I was never that big of a fan of the young-adult, high-school, coming-of-age type of movies, but some of my favorite films of the last few years (Lady Bird, The Edge of Seventeen) actually belong to that genre. Why am I enjoying these low-budget flicks more than others?
Well, it can’t be a coincidence that every director that tackled these movies is either tremendously talented or shows incredible potential. In addition to this, all of these films (all directed by a woman) address a teenage story starring one or more female main characters. Now, hang on to your horses: no, these movies aren’t good because they’re made by women. No, the story isn’t captivating or entertaining due to the protagonists being women. These films are great simply because they’re made by filmmakers who know what to do with a camera and a story, besides starring brilliant actors… It just happens that all of these persons are women.
I’m not part of any movement or hate group. I don’t care about politics. I hate people that let their reviews be influenced by external themes, ultimately being unfair to the movie. That said, I have no doubts that these films are better because they have women producing, directing, writing, and starring in it. Booksmart is extremely funny while being as realistic as possible at the same time. Tonally, Wilde seamlessly balances her movie, flowing through each plot point with no major missteps. Although, some occasional detours unnecessarily stretch the runtime, namely a few subplots that didn’t really offer anything worth the time, besides being a bit exaggerated.
Nevertheless, the main storyline never loses its focus. Amy and Molly smoothly drive the screenplay through entertaining moments as well as grounded, pretty dramatic scenes. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are spectacular! I can’t remember the last time I watched such a phenomenal duo of protagonists, especially when it comes to young actors/actresses. They have impeccable chemistry, and it’s quite noticeable that some sequences are undoubtedly improvised. They also deliver one of the best one-on-one verbal confrontations ever put to screen. Just one long take with both giving their all. Outstanding acting, fantastic filmmaking.
With these two actresses carrying the story forward, every single scene is elevated. The comedy bits are amusing, but the romantic drama surrounding them is addressed in such a genuine manner. Kudos to each and every screenwriter that worked on the scripts. To Olivia Wilde, I leave my wish of seeing her in more features. She has her own style, and she definitely has a lot to say, so I can’t wait for her next films. Booksmart carries enough sweet messages that will surely connect with audiences all over the world, whether you’re young, old, men or women. It still carries some cliches from the genre (not trusting your BFF, even though it’s clear you’re wrong), but it’s the play on stereotypes (not everyone seems what they show) that wins at the end.
All in all, Olivia Wilde places her name on the list of directors to watch closely for the next few years. Booksmart is a wonderful addition to the coming-of-age genre, one that possesses two astonishing protagonists. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever might become superstars in the future if they continue to display such remarkable performances. With the help of a great supporting cast as well, Wilde shows the exciting and entertaining side of graduating high-school, but also all of the real dramas that teenagers go through, with no restraints. It’s a character-driven story, and Amy and Molly are two persons that we should learn a lot from. It’s one of the best movies of the genre, even though it still contains some of its famous cliches and a few subplots that don’t quite come together. Definitely, give it a watch!