Ever since film existed, there have been plenty of high-school classics that defined a generation. American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, and Superbad among others have all set the standard. Olivia Wilde sits in the director’s chair for the first time with Booksmart, a raunchy yet surprisingly poignant and downright hilarious portrait about the hardships of female friendship and growing up. Along with four female screenwriters, the movie brings something fresh to the genre.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have been best friends since childhood. They are about to graduate from high school, kudos to focusing hard on their education, acing the SATs to get into Ivy League schools (Amy is about to go to Columbia, while Molly is going to Yale) and participating in extracurricular activities. The duo realized they missed out on the good times during their high school years. They both thought it would be a good idea to cram four years of fun into one crazy night they will never forget. Soon, they begin to learn about the truth of their friendship.
It’s extremely difficult to make a teen comedy to be crude without being too offensive. Yes, the two talk about sex, get into a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, go into a hilarious acid trip (rendered through stop-motion animation), but it focuses on their friendship and the means of being there for one another. After a series of script rewrites, it pulls off brilliantly.
Wilde has chosen a rock-solid cast to play the high school students. What’s refreshing is none of them are portrayed as stereotypes, but more as actual teenagers. Known for her breakout performances in the TV series Justified and Last Man Standing, Dever excels as Amy, the smart girl who came out of the closet during her sophomore year. She tries to have the courage to ask her crush Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), an awkward skater girl, to go out on a date. It’s not until reality begins to slap her across the face.
Her chemistry with Feldstein (who rose to fame in Greta Gerwig’s directing debut Lady Bird), is enough to make Booksmart worthwhile. Molly, who is just as quirky and supportive to her best friends, wants to grow up to be the youngest Supreme Court justice. There is a great scene early on where she overhears her peers mocking her in the bathroom. Then, Molly walks out of the stall to give her criticism about what she heard. I have never witnessed a scene as brutally honest as anything I’ve seen all year.
The supporting cast has their shining moments as well. It includes Jason Sudeikis as the principal, Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow as Amy’s parents, and the scene-stealing Billie Lourd (the daughter of the late Carrie Fisher) as wild-child Gigi, who always appears at the most random situations. I bet she had a blast being in this movie!
Booksmart is destined to be the next teen comedy classic. Featuring razor-sharp dialogue, a realistic portrayal of high school, and wonderful performances. Well done, Olivia Wilde!