“Booksmart” stars Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis. Released on May 24, 2019, the film has two high school seniors setting out to party during their last days of classes.
The film features the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde. To all of the students who are still in school, you’re nearing the end of another year filled with homework, tests, and essays. Soon, you’ll be able to spend three whole months enjoying the fresh summer weather…or in this case, watching some big summer blockbusters on the big screen. You’re probably wondering why I mentioned this. Well, it’s because we’re looking at a film that involves the end of the school year and what the students do to celebrate. This is another film that has an actress sitting in the director’s chair and showing her own filmmaking style to the world. This time, it’s Olivia Wilde, who’s known for starring in films like “Alpha Dog”, “Tron: Legacy”, “Butter”, and “Rush”. Now, clearly I haven’t been following Wilde a lot during her acting career, but her new film has enough interest for me to give her another shot. After all, I had a similar experience with Greta Gerwig before she made her miraculous directorial debut with “Lady Bird” less than two years ago, and look how that turned out. So it would be interesting to see if Wilde’s directorial debut can be just as successful as Gerwig’s.
The film is a basic coming-of-age story that centers on two best friends, Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein), who are nearing the end of their senior year in high school. After one of them discovers that some of the students are going to college despite their hard-partying antics, they decide to let loose and go to an end-of-the-year party held by one of the high school seniors. Along the way, they encounter some pretty unusual obstacles that will put their friendship (and their sanities) to the test. Coming-of-age films are known for exploring the characters’ transitions from youth to adulthood, and some of them can be quite thought-provoking and entertaining if the filmmakers play their cards right. “Booksmart” is no exception as it represents an intriguing and fresh take on the genre as well as the modern reflection of the last day of being a high school senior. While it does have a couple of genre tropes that we’re familiar with, the film’s execution was able to get itself a perfect grade regardless. This is a well-written and smoothly-directed comedy that successfully works well with its timely messages and provides a lot of laughs and heart into the mix. I can easily tell that Olivia Wilde had the right amount of passion and honesty in displaying a story like this, especially from the point of view of two academic female seniors. Yes, it did get a bit weird from time to time, but the film’s screenplay had the right balance between raunchy and charm to make itself fun, humorous, and more importantly, relatable. Part of the charm (and the raunch) comes from the two main actresses, Dever and Feldstein, and their fantastic chemistry together. What made these two click for me was that they believed that their characters’ friendship was real despite their flaws, which made me believe that as well. They had their humorous moments and they had their not-so-humorous moments. In the end, these talented actresses are the peanut butter and jelly that hold the two breads together. The film is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that’s simple, yet deliciously satisfying. The humor in the film was pretty raunchy at times, but like I mentioned before, they know how to balance that with its heartwarming moments. The best part about the humor was that it was actually hilarious from start to finish. There was this one part in the film that looked absolutely weird and somehow out-of-place to me, but it got me laughing, so I’m not going to complain about that.
Overall, “Booksmart” works around its basic coming-of-age elements to earn all A’s on its report card. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut relies on the strength of the chemistry between Dever and Feldstein and the film’s fresh screenplay to craft a well-told, yet adult-rated, tale about discovering what’s really important in life. It’s smart, funny, entertaining, and inspiring, which are the right tools to make a coming-of-age film a straight-A student.