On the eve of their high school graduation, 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.
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Noah Galvin, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Diana Silvers
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writers: Emily Halpernm, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman
Booksmart is a film that we at the Explosion Network had an eye on since its South by Southwest premiere and subsequent trailer was released. The critical acclaim it received after its theatrical release in the US back in May was hard to ignore and made its eventual release in Australia a highly anticipated event. I’m pleased to report that it lives up to the hype and is definitely one of the best films of the year so far.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are two best friends who have spent their whole high school focused on academic pursuits with the goal to get into a good college. When Molly learns on the last day of school that all the kids who partied also got into good colleges, she sets out to make up for lost time and heads out to a party with Amy. Misadventure ensues.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are simply superb in this film and have such amazing chemistry you’ll believe they’ve been lifelong friends. The film lives or dies on their friendship so it’s a pleasure to see it work so well and a delight to enjoy every scene that they share together. Booksmart has been regularly referred to as a female Superbad and that comparison is quite apt. Molly is the more outgoing of the pair like Jonah Hill’s Seth (which is a fun coincidence seeing as Beanie is Jonah’s little sister) while Amy is more shy and quiet like Michael Cera’s Evan. It is also refreshing to see Amy as an out lesbian that is just accepted by everyone in the film, there are never any negative comments on her sexuality.
Booksmart also has a strong supporting cast with the standout being Billie Lourd as Gigi, a party girl with an amazing ability to show up unexpectedly. Her continued antics throughout the film were very amusing and never grew tiring. Skyler Gisondo gives a good performance as the cringy try-hard rich kid Jared, who clearly has a thing for Molly, as do Noah Galvin and Austin Crute as a pair of pretentious theatre kids. Jason Sudeikis and Mike O’Brien have fun smaller roles while Eduardo Franco appears playing pretty much the same role he’s played before.
Just like Superbad, Booksmart has really good dialogue which can be attributed to Katie Silberman who was brought on to do the final revisions of the script. Amy and Molly have fun banter that feels very unique and talk to each other in the way only life long friends can, with their own internal references and code words. After seeing Silberman’s previous work on Set It Up and Isn’t It Romantic, she is definitely a name I’ll be keeping an eye out for. The only issue with the script is a few characters are introduced briefly at the beginning of the film and then come back to play significant roles later in the film. Although unavoidable due to the film focusing on Molly and Amy, it took me a while to recognise them after not seeing them for a large portion of the film.
One of the most remarkable things that Olivia Wilde has done in her directorial debut is make one of the most beautiful shot comedies in recent years. With cinematography by Jason McCormick, I found myself several times throughout the film noting have wonderfully a scene was shot, a rarity in a genre more focused on the dialogue and acting. A drug fueled scene showcases Wilde’s creativity and a style unlike anything else we’ve seen before.
Booksmart proved to be very much worth the wait and could very well be the new standard for female buddy films. This film is certain to be the breakout moment in the careers of many of those involved. In a world where these sort of films find their way straight to streaming services, this is one definitely worth seeing in the cinema if you can (sorry Dylan).