Booksmart - This Movie Truly Rocks
Dir: Olivia Wilde
Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Justin Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Billie Lourd
We are living in a new golden age of the American teen movie. Not since the ‘80s Hughes revolution has the genre been so strong, clearly now being handled by a generation who wore out their VHS copies of those classic originals. The peerless LadyBird a while back, and,in recent weeks alone, we’ve had the sublime Mid ‘90s, the superb Eight Grade, and now, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, her beautiful American Graffiti-inspired take on the night before everything to do with high school changes and is gone.
The brilliantly cast Dever and Feldstein are Amy and Molly, two girls who did all the right things, remained the outsiders they always felt they were (except to each other), having studied hard, got the grades and secured their futures with Ivy League college placements, arrive at their last day of school having never really experienced high school life. Then they realise that those other kids they avoided – the ones that partied, the ones that had fun – also got good grades and got into good colleges. WTF??!!
So with one final night to go, Molly and Amy have lost time to make up for, a party to get to, and relationships to make and break. Needless to say, they’re new to all this, so things do not go to plan.
Wilde’s remarkably astute and confident debut is a pure and simple joy, mixing a laugh-out loud script, with deeply felt characterisations that extend beyond the two central characters, to just about everyone caught up in their world. Yes, Dever and Feldstein ground it at its core – as Molly tries to find the boy of her dreams, and Amy comes to terms with her recently proclaimed lesbianism (despite never having even kissed a girl), but Wilde paints a picture of a fully realised and inhabited world. You suspect you could follow just about anyone of these characters through this final night and have an equally good time.
Booksmart is beautifully smart, intelligent, moving and, as Hughes taught us all (and as the many who have followed in his footsteps can attest to) this is a film that understands that for all the laughs, those high school teenage years, that period of growing up, is inevitably a painful one. But, as Booksmart conveys so well, it can also be a joyous one.
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