Have you ever had an “OMG, I’ve wasted my life!” moment? Yeah, so have Booksmart‘s Amy and Molly.
Luckily for them, at least, they’re still in their teens – they have plenty more time in which to get their sh-t together. Or, of course, to continue wasting.
Not that Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have frittered their time away as such, they’re more victims of bad organisation – and wrongful stereotyping. The pair of absolute best buds have spent their high school years being as studious as possible, believing that it would be the key to them getting into the colleges of their choice. It worked, too.
However, it also worked for many of those around them whom they’ve looked down on – those who may have partied like their lives depended upon it, but balanced it with their study commitments. Upon discovering this, Molly is left shellshocked. Amy’s reaction isn’t any better.
So, what to do? They have one night of high school life left before the summer break hits so, duh, it’s time to party! The only issue is, where the hell is this Nick guy’s shindig? It may take a few false starts to get there…
While that may sound like the setup for Just Another Dumb Teen Comedy, Booksmart – the first time behind the camera for Olivia Wilde – is anything but. In short, it’s inspired.
Dever and Feldstein are just wonderful as the lead pair, with their smarts – and ability to portray adorable only-between-friends dorkiness – easily conveying that they could have been besties for life. But the great characterisation doesn’t end there. No matter how major or minor the high school stereotype that features – be it the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, the criminal or whatever – they’re all more than throwaway gag conduits, they’ve been crafted with depth. The greatest of which is easily the alarmingly omnipresent Gigi (Billie Lourd), who reminds us of Penny Lane from Almost Famous, and almost steals the entire movie with her madcap – yet sympathetic – antics.
Imagine the best of John Hughes – The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful – rubbing up against some of the inspired moments of the more comedic likes of the sublime Better Off Dead, Mean Girls and even the first American Pie, and you’re on your way to understanding just how good Booksmart is. But, it’s all delivered in a fresh-looking style. There’s serious, and it’s handled with the gravity that it deserves. There’s gross-out, which doesn’t veer into crass territory. There’s a gay lead character, but she’s not defined by her sexuality. There’s stuff that’s just way out-there, which is fresh – and funny. Then there’s highly-strung Alanis Morissette karaoke, which is just plain hilarious.
Booksmart superbly captures the awkwardness and intensity of being in your teens like no other movie that we’ve seen, and proves that while the tech, fashions and language may change, the high school experience has retained an incredible timelessness through the decades.
In cinemas: July 11, 2019
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Billie Lourd
Directed by: Olivia Wilde