TL;DR – While it follows a lot of the plot beats of similar films, it stands out on its own by focusing on the characters that are the heart of the movie.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
There are some scenarios that you see get plaid out in cinema over and over again. Indeed, one of the most popular scenarios is looking at that last few days before you graduate high school. I think it is so popular because it is something that nearly every person in the target audience has or will go through. So it becomes a nexus of past nostalgia and future promise. Either way, it is a scenario that I have seen put to film over and over again, especially in the R-rated comedy genre. However, in all the scenarios, I have never seen a film quite like this.
So to set the scene, high school is drawing to a close and class valedictorian Molly Davidson (Beanie Feldstein) and her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are getting ready to survive the final day of classes. Molly is going to Yale and spent all her time at school making that happen, and Amy is getting ready to spend a summer in Botswana as an aid worker. However, Molly’s certainty about her past is shaken when she discovers that all the kids that partied throughout high school also got into top universities. Well, there is only one night left before graduation and Molly know just what to do, she needs to go to Nick’s (Mason Gooding) party so she can have the full high school experience and she is dragging Amy along with her.
one of those films that has gone through a number of revisions from different
people since it was first pitched. When you get a bunch of different voices all
overlapped on top of each other it can become messy but not so here. From a
story structure perspective, Booksmart
follows the structure of a lot of other films about trying to get to that one
party like The
Night Before or Superbad
where there is a simple goal (get to the party) only for everything to go wrong
between Point A and Point B. So while this common structure remains in place
what sets Booksmart apart for many of
the other films in this genre is that they fill the cast with characters that
are both relatable but also characters that feel like fully-formed people.
I have watched a lot of films where people are cast together as friends but you can feel it in the writing or the acting that this is just not the case. However, here Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever have instant chemistry that is just so rare in cinema. Their character’s relationship is not one note, it is good, but also flawed, it shifts and changes and bends till it almost breaks but stays true, and that is just the first act. This is a combination of great acting, clear writing, and consistent direction and it shows.
well as the leading cast, I also found the supporting cast of character to be
really compelling. Most of the characters are introduced as these one-note
almost caricatures of teenagers. However, as the movie goes on, you see that
this is just the mask that they wear and beneath that is a much more
complicated person. As someone who wore a lot of masks during high school, this
is something I really resonated with. To add to all this is some older parent
roles that are just hilarious, shout out to Jason Sudeikis’ just over it school
principle. However, not all of it worked as well, for example, it felt like
Miss Fine originally had a much smaller role and then they cast the amazing Jessica
Williams so they stretched the role out. But sleeping with one of your
student’s subplot is well tacky at best and deeply problematic most of the rest
of the time and while the film avoids the later it can’t escape the first.
In the end, do we recommend Booksmart? Well yes, we would, with a couple of qualifications. While I found it really enjoyable, it is still an American R-rated comedy, so if you are not a fan of language or frank discussion of things of a sexual nature then this is not the film for you. Overall, I think it really captured the essence of friendship in a way I have not seen a lot of films do, and that was fun to watch.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Booksmart
Directed by – Olivia Wilde
Written by – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel & Katie Silberman
Music by – Dan the Automator
Cinematography by – Jason McCormick
Edited by – Brent White & Jamie Gross
Production/Distribution Companies – Annapurna Pictures, Gloria Sanchez Productions & Universal Studios
Starring – Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, Diana Silvers, Skyler Gisondo, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Austin Crute, Victoria Ruesga, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Mason Gooding, Mike O’Brien, Bluesy Burke, Christopher Avila, Stephanie Styles, Adam Simon Krist, Gideon Lang & Maya Rudolph
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R