After the successful reception of its opening weekend, I think it’s safe to say that Booksmart is indeed the teen comedy of 2019. This review was difficult for me to mold out of a full fledged think piece. There is so much I need to say about it that I might even make a blog post somewhere with a full analysis. I would advise seeing this in the theater before it’s too late. This is not one to bypass until Redbox.
While watching this, I thought for sure Olivia Wilde must have directed something in the past and I missed it. Turns out she directed a low-key short years ago, but more importantly, she’s just that good. It is apparent throughout the entire film that she was in tune with the cast and where she wanted this story to land. This film as a whole is unapologetic and neither is she, and I think that’s a good way to be with your art, especially today.
This is a good directorial debut for her, and I’m very excited for her future work.
Maybe for the next one she will direct and star? I’ll be here for it.
The plot is pretty straightforward if you’ve seen the trailer. And if you have seen the trailer, you’ve seen the first act of the whole film cut to a T. I’ll get into that one later.
On the last day of their high school career, studious best friends Molly and Amy decide to go to their first high school party in hopes of seeing what they missed out on all four years. Trying to get to the party, the young ladies find themselves in a chain of goofy situations that challenge their friendship and the way they perceive the people around them.
The plot is solid; no more, no less. It follows the standard teen journey comedy that is forever written in scripture on the inside of our eyelids. Three films my mind gravitates to the most are Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, 21 & Over, and the most obvious being Superbad. What sets apart a film that follows this formula is the way it decides to handle all the details. I think Booksmart does a really good job of making those details their own. What makes this film different, for me, is how it encapsulates the modern day teenager and strays away from old fashioned stereotypical high school roles. Molly and Amy are essentially the “nerds,” but they are pretty confident in themselves and embrace being the smartest kids in their class. One is a lesbian, and it isn’t used as a taboo story element, it just is what is- which I love. Even the stoners don’t seem like “cool” kids, they’re just kids who like to smoke. No one is afraid of anyone. Sure, some of the girls are on the meaner side, but they get it thrown right back at them… mostly by Molly.
The two scenes I was not fond of were the animated Barbie scene and Molly’s daydream dance with Nick. The animated scene just didn’t land with me, and the dance number was so embarrassing and so ~corny~. I feel weird for even bringing it up. Not to mention they bring the story to a grinding halt and don’t match the rest of the film.
Aside from those two scenes, the plot is pretty full.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I’m just gonna go ahead and say that this is the best casting I’ve seen all year so far. The dialogue is rich and delivered in the most organic way, which is a big thing I look for when watching modern day films.
Beanie Feldstein is fantastic as Molly. She has become a recent favorite of mine, from Ladybird to her latest role in FX’s What We Do In The Shadows. It’s apparent that this role was her baby, and even though I didn’t directly relate to Molly, I loved her and I wouldn’t totally hate a sequel of her and Annabelle (aka Triple A) during their first year of college. Kaitlyn Dever’s performance of Amy is surely going to stick with me forever. Amy is awkward but witty and very much reminds me of myself at that age. Her story arc seems the most developed out of everyone. What might be the most unexpected and memorable performance for me is BILLIE. EFFING. LOURD. Billie Lourd is such a precious gem that we must keep safe forever and ever. I’m so used to her on American Horror Story that I never pictured her in such a hilarious, playful role. OK, technically, the FOX show Scream Queens was a comedy, but she didn’t get a real chance to shine playing Chanel #3. Notable performances by Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte really were the cherries on top for me personally. I would also really like to praise Molly Gordon, Diana Silvers, Mason Gooding, and the rest of the high school classmates that left me very eager to see how they help shape this new generation of actors.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score was well done and ties certain scenes together very nicely. For instance, the scene where Amy is in the pool. The camera really takes it's time underwater, but the music brings that scene it's own magical cinematic touch. I already have it all saved to my Spotify, so that's how you know it's good in my book.
The production design was so warm and spot on to the personality of Amy and Molly. I really liked the entire scene of the party at Nick’s house especially.
The animated scene did nothing for me, however. I think it was mostly because as Barbies, their arms don’t move like human arms and that’s just a weird personal thing for me. Also, the animation looked so good I got nauseous? Don’t ask me how that makes sense, I know it doesn’t.
I’m going to dabble into editing because I have some beef. The first act of the whole film is literally cut the same as the theatrical trailer. This is bothersome because the trailer alone left me thinking the rest of the film was going to be full of other, probably funnier one liners, which sadly doesn’t happen. It’s been a huge problem I’ve had with trailers for years. It seems to be cut like a trailer all the way until Nick’s party and not even until after the daydream dance.
Truly, I am over the moon and relieved that we finally have a film that replaces the guys we always see with women we've been dying to see, and doing it with care. This is a movie many young people are going to find some sort of way to connect to. In a time when today’s young adults need a film that truly gets them, I think Booksmart will forever be considered among one of the best coming of age films.