In Olivia Wilde’s debut as a feature director, Booksmart is that rare teen comedy that does more than tell a couple of sex jokes about apple pies (too subtle?). Though the film is not as emotionally rich as ‘Eighth Grade’, it still remains a tightly crafted, acutely observed and down-right hilarious coming-of-age comedy.
It’s the final day of high school, and Amy and Molly are straight A students who have spent their whole time studying to get into good colleges. However, they slowly realise that everyone else is getting into good schools, despite having spent a lot of the year partying. Now Molly and Amy are booksmart and not streetsmart, and with just one day before graduation they decide to throw themselves into partying for the night. Along the way, they’ll have encounters with a bunch of hilarious characters and perfectly observed high-school stereotypes as they learn about their friendship and what it can stand.
Amy and Molly are played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, and the two ooze onscreen chemistry. Their performances make it feel like we’re just a fly on the wall of a friendship that has lasted 18 years, and this makes the entire film burst with cute affection and love. The ensemble of young cast members also includes Billie Lourd, Diana Silvers, Skyler Gisondo and Molly Gordon, as well as a whole host of new faces that are utterly hilarious. It really feels like an ensemble film where everyone has a distinct character and a chance to shine with it.
Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Williams, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis also star in smaller adult roles, and it’s nice that though these are named stars with brilliant moments, they never distract from the performances of the triumphant newcomers.
Olivia Wilde has made some fantastic choices with her debut film. First off, it’s absolutely hilarious, with a great blend of slapstick, word play and visual comedy all adding to the joke counter. Secondly, there are some excitingly unique sequences in the film that a usual mainstream comedy wouldn’t attempt, including an animated section which felt completely fitting despite being utterly bonkers. Finally though, she has cast incredible newcomers in this film perfectly, and has directed each of their performances to enable a great blend of humour and storytelling.
The script, written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman is bursting with great quotes and brilliant plot points. There are some surprises along the way that are totally unexpected and really help drive the snappy narrative. It’s also a film that is totally affectionate and not at all mean-spirited, another thing that is often a key issue with modern comedies. It’s an incredibly inclusive movie, with representations of feminism, the LGBTQ+ community and countless nationalities, and yet these are never punchlines. It’s a truly believable, real world story with real characters that do crazy things.
Overall, Booksmart is THE next big teen-comedy. So much more than just a role-reversed ‘Superbad’, Booksmart is warm-hearted, inclusive, just crude enough and really, really funny.