Plot – On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realise 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 – Booksmart.
Director – Olivia Wilde
Starring – Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Skyler Gisondo
Genre – Comedy
Released – 2019
If you liked: Superbad, Other People, Hustlers
Making her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde’s fast-paced and quick-witted coming-of-age comedy Booksmart follows a relatively simple concept of two “geeky” friends making up for lost time after realising that by missing out on new experiences and avoiding parties during their time at High School hasn’t given them a step up on the classmates they looked down on, with most of their peers also making it into Ivy League schools.
Yet this simple idea is executed with exceptional quality and panache that you can’t help but find yourself charmed not only by Wilde’s directorial skill but also the polished writing, a wide range of representation and skilled performances.
Front and centre, you have Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, who lived together for ten weeks to build the authentic chemistry you get on screen. Both actresses shine in their retrospective roles as two loveable yet slightly pretentious friends, looking to make up for not spending time having fun by experiencing it the night before graduation. Leading me to the genuine beauty of Booksmart: the time and care spent making sure none of the characters felt one-dimensional, with even the smallest of roles defying easy characterisation seen in other teen comedies. Jared (Gisondo) may be the rich kid, but all he wants to do is help others, with the same to be said for Gigi (Billie Lourd).
Even Annabelle (Molly Gordon), who was set up as the closest thing to a villain the story provides, ends up helping the girls when they really need it. The authentic look at American high school life is also there to be seen in the representation shown of different cultures, races, and sexualities, none of which is the defining element of the character. The best example of this is Amy, a lead character who has embraced her identity and came out long before the events of the film.
Booksmart captures perfectly the struggles that modern-day teenagers are now facing. The chemistry between the two leads was superb because it felt genuine, while the writing and direction were pitch-perfect. After producing what could one day be considered a cult classic, I’m excited to see where Wilde goes next.