Since its premier at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, Booksmart has been touted as “female Superbad“. Now while the plots are similar (a duo of unpopular teens try to get to a party while testing their friendship) and Booksmart being just as funny – which is incredibly high praise coming from someone who thinks Superbad is an all-time comedy – the movies are incredibly different. Booksmart isn’t “female Superbad“. Booksmart is its own movie and offers up its own brand of comedy, relevant themes for those in high school and beyond, and star-making performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.
On the eve of their high school graduation, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), two academic superstars and best friends, realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Dever and Feldstein are both young actresses who have been making their way around T.V. and movies for the last couple years, never as the leads, but more as supporting characters. Booksmart is their coming out party as leading ladies and they own it, both giving spectacular performances that will shoot their stars right to the very top. Both have perfect comedic timing, each bringing their own comedic touches to their rolls, yet balance it with sincerity and authenticity. Both Amy and Molly think they have it all figured out and think that they did high school right. But in reality, both are incredibly confused and begin to realize their plan may not have been the correct one. Amy is also dealing with recently coming out and having a crush on a girl at school, yet doesn’t know how to do about it, nor read the signals as to if the girl is into her or not. Dever and Feldstein make Amy and Molly rounded, realistic characters you’ll relate to and fall in love with.
What’s best about the performances of Dever and Feldstein is the seamless chemistry between the two. The first time we see the two interact is an impromptu dance party outside Amy’s car to no music before school. This scene starts their whole journey off, immediately setting the tone for how fun, weird, and close these two are as friends. This pays off for us throughout the film, as the two go on an emotional journey that pushes their friendship to the limit and taking us on the the journey. Though only knowing these girls for only one day in their life, we are all-in on their relationship and director Olivia Wilde makes sure that we feel the emotions they feel throughout the night.
Olivia Wilde’s debut film is one for the books. Working from a whip-smart script from Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberban, Wilde made a coming of age comedy that looks at modern high school, friendship, growing up, and letting go and having a good time. This is also a film about the strength of women and the positives of looking out for one another. Rather than stereotype other girls and judge them for their actions, regardless of if you would do those actions or not, looking out one another makes you and every other woman stronger. From behind the camera to in front of it and on-screen, this movie is all about the strength of women.
Booksmart is far and away the best comedy of the year and I’ll be damned if I find one better. Director Olivia Wilde has crafted one of the truly great high school comedies of the decade featuring endless laughs, a relatable story, and perfect performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.
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