With summer vacation only a few weeks away, new major blockbusters and indie films will start making their way to cinemas. This weekend, I headed to Booksmart, from United Artists Releasing and directed by Olivia Wilde. The film stars Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, Beanie Feldstein as Molly, Billie Lourd as Gigi, Jessica Williams as Ms. Fine, Jason Sudeikis as Principal Brown, Lisa Kudrow as Charmaine, Will Forte as Doug, Victoria Ruesga as Ryan, Skyler Gisondo as Jared and Mason Gooding as Nick.
Booksmart follows Molly and Amy who are are on the verge of graduating from high school. They have spent the last four years completely focusing on their academics in order to assure their acceptance into prestigious colleges and universities. However, their world is turned upside down when their classmates who don’t seem to put much effort into their academics reveal that they were accepted into some of the top schools in the country. Amy and Molly realize that they too could have eased up with focusing on academics and socialized more. They’re determined to have one memorable night, so they venture off to a graduation party.
From the beginning of the film, we’re meant to notice how close the friendship is between Molly and Amy. In one particular scene, which is shown in the trailer, Amy picks up Molly so they can head to school. However, they start dancing in near the car before even leaving. They’re not really afraid to act silly in front of each other. A bit further in the film, Molly begins to doubt her looks, to which Amy slaps her and makes a heart-warming speech on just how special Molly really is.
There’s no sense of competition between them nor do we get a glimpse of anything that shows any real dilemma between them towards the beginning of the film. They treat each other as equals and are supportive of each other. It’s incredible to see healthy friendships being portrayed in film.
Before watching the film, I had seen Kaitlyn Dever on the former ABC sitcom Last Man Standing and really enjoyed her character on the show. I hadn’t kept up with any other projects she had done after I stopped watching the show, but this has to be one of her best roles yet. She has incredible chemistry with Beanie Feldstein and is able to convey some of the struggles that a high school student might go through. For instance, she gets teased for forming a teacher-student bond with Ms. Fine by the rest of her classmates. She doesn’t seem to care, but it’s an example of the kind of bullying that some students may receive.
I had not watched anything that Beanie Feldstein has been in. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her or the character that she played, but I was pleasantly surprised with her acting capabilities and her portrayal of Molly. Her character was the perfect blend of bad-ass, humorous, caring, and someone who was searching for a final attempt at a great adventure. However, her arc in the film was quite a surprise. She’s in the top of her class after has dedicated her high school years to her academics and seems to be a bit arrogant. Her character is one that I could relate with the most on a personal level. It provided a sense of nostalgia to who I was before but also how much I’ve grown as a person.
One of the standout side characters in the film was Gigi. Lourd’s performance provided most of the comic moments, which never really felt out of place. She portrayed as the stereotypical rich girl through the beginning of the film, but her character quickly becomes much more than that. During a scene where Molly and Jared are talking about why he hangs out with Gigi, Jared confesses that she’s a bit broken, but she’s also the most loyal person he knows. That’s quite a revelation, but it gives the audience an inside look of what kind of person Gigi is. Her loyalty to the people she cares about is explored, however, without getting into spoilers, it’s not necessarily expressed in the most obvious manner.
The rest of the supporting class provide all other aspects that make Booksmart so spectacular. Amy’s parents, Charmaine and Doug, are given more comedic roles, but provide information as to the home life of Amy. Molly and Amy’s classmates all embody different cliques that could easily be found in almost any high school. They all don’t follow under the typical stereotypes and are all given their own unique moments to show the audience who they are. I’m just glad that they all seem like they could still be in high school and not play by actors over 26 who are meant to pass for someone who’s 18 years old.
Above anything else, Booksmart is the perfect embodiment of a coming-of-age story while also putting a unique spin on it. It’s focused on two teenage girls, one of whom is also queer. This specific twist dictates how the entire story will play out, whether it’s the form of the story itself, the aspects that are revealed about their friendship, or the sex-related jokes. Amy is attracted to one of her classmates, subverting the notion that most coming-of-age stories mainly include heterosexual relationships. With this being a coming-of-age story, it plays an important part in help both Molly and Amy understand that they cannot control all aspects of their life, even though that what they’ve been doing for the past four years.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Booksmart. I wasn’t aware of it coming out until a few weeks ago, but I’m glad I was able to watch it. With this being Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, I can say with full confidence that she managed to create a unique film that’s both a love letter to the coming-of-age story and a love letter to anyone who spent their Friday nights at home doing schoolwork. This is by far one of the best films that I’ve seen this year.
Booksmart is now playing in theaters.
Final Rating: 9/10 Graduation Parties