Over the past few years, the wealth of teen girl focused
comedies has been going into overdrive. With everything from Edge of Seventeen, to Easy A, to Lady Bird, to Blockers, the
quality has been top shelf, premium material. So it’s with great pleasure to
say that the latest in the line of these high school girl comedies is not only
a genuine treat of a film, but arguably the finest of the bunch. Yep, Olivia
Wilde’s debut film Booksmart is just
about the best comedy of 2019, and, once this year is done and dusted, it’ll
likely be the film I’ll be returning to most frequently.
two high school seniors, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), as
they celebrate the end of school and the beginning of their college lives. Both
are dedicated students, focusing completely on their academic achievements with
the hope of getting into the most prestigious college, having completely
avoided all parties and ‘fun’ that would have distracted them for their goal. After
Molly overhears the partying-type students talking about her and her lack of ‘fun’,
she confronts them, berating them for their lives of leisure, telling them how
she got into Yale and they didn’t. It’s a prime assumption that’s thrown out
immediately when the other students retort with the prestigious colleges they
got into themselves. Realising that they could have had both the study life and
the party life, Molly and Amy vow to have one night of partying debauchery to
send off the year.
Look, let’s get something out of the way about Booksmart before we jump into why this
film is excellent – in the age of ‘wokeness’, there is a plethora of reasons to
throw Booksmart out the window:
everyone is privileged, there’s little to no conflict, and, after the Aunt
Becky college scandal, it’s arguably a little bit difficult to care about
wealthy kids getting into wealthy colleges. I’m certain there’s a truck load
more that can be said about Booksmart
that nit-picks it out of existence, rejecting all the glorious fun that comes
with the central heartwarming friendship, but you know what, fuck that.
Even with heavy reliance on the well-trodden tropes that
come with the subgenre of ‘one night on the town’ flicks – with everything from
ending up at wrong parties, to unexpected psychedelic consumption, to run-in’s
with police, to ‘I am a golden God’ dives into pools – Booksmart becomes its own beautiful entity, a wonderfully
optimistic film, free of judgement, and full of heart. The core friendship
between Amy and Molly is so pure that it can’t help but be aspirational. The
way they both encourage each other with their endeavours is joyous and is the
core basis why these characters simply work
– they feel real and like they have had a wealth of life experience before we
meet them. Beanie Feldstein was already a treat in Lady Bird, but given the chance to lead a film like this, she
simply shines. When paired with the ever enjoyable Kaitlyn Dever – who gives a
performance here that almost works as a reminder to all the directors she’s worked
with before that her superb talent has been wasted up til now – the two give
one of the great modern comedy duo performances.
The supporting cast is also great, with superb cameos from
Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte. Also commendable is Noah Galvin as
a theatre obsessed student whose idea of a wind-down party is a murder mystery
event that overtakes his parents house – a perfect throwaway gag has his family
relegated to the kitchen, sitting in silence so they don’t interrupt his well-planned
event. Billie Lourd’s airy Gigi is a delight to watch, with her presence
throughout the film working as a brief moment of heightened levity. But my
favourite would have to be Skyler Gisondo’s Jared – a hyper-wealthy trust fund
kid who is so earnest and eager to be liked and part of everyone’s life that he
can’t help but push everyone away. Skyler’s performance is superb, getting the
right balance of eagerness right and ensuring that Jared never falls into the ‘annoying
rich kid’ realm.
Booksmart is so
perfectly written, so perfectly performed, and so wonderfully earnest with its
intention to provide joy to the audience, that you can’t help but leave feeling
lighter than you went in. To call it one of the best films of the year feels
like an understatement. This is the exact kind of film that fits into the ‘slap
down’ category for me – meaning, the sort that you buy on DVD, and when you
find out that someone hasn’t seen it, you rush off to pick up your copy and
slap it down on the table in front of them and demand they watch it right away.
I love Booksmart, and I sure as heck
hope you do too, because darn it, we need more films like this.
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