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Booksmart – Movie Review

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Booksmart – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

The raunchy teen comedy is hardly a new genre, especially ones that depict a night of partying. Booksmart manages to be not only funny, but also show a genuine friendship between two high school girls. Making her feature directing debut, Olivia Wilde employs a lot of clever filmmaking techniques and keeps the momentum going as we follow straight-A students Amy and Molly through this wild night. Especially important is the chemistry exhibited between Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein and that allows the jokes to hit that much harder. Some will probably make the easy comparison to Superbad, but Booksmart manages to stand up on its own.

Early on, it’s obvious Wilde isn’t going to censor anything about the teen experience. Teenagers have dirty minds, are prone to swearing like sailors and in this age of social media, their senses are even more heightened. However, Wilde doesn’t go too overboard in depicting the raunchy sex antics of these teenagers. There is a decent variety of jokes throughout Booksmart, some relying on dialogue and others on physical comedy. That avoids the film becoming annoyingly repetitive. One inspired gag has the leads turning into dolls for a hilarious stop-motion animated sequence. There is also a humourous exchange with a pizza delivery man and an encounter with an Uber driver that produce the required laughs.

As Amy and Molly, Dever and Feldstein bring note perfect comedic timing to their roles. Their characters are well established early on and it’s clear this friendship has been a close one for many years. Their exchanges have the necessary punch and wit, with one conversation about self pleasure thankfully being more funny than creepy and a lot of the credit goes to Dever and Feldstein. In matching these two up, Wilde may have unintentionally created a new comedic duo that could lend itself to multiple films down the line. The rest of the supporting cast is also utilised really well. One definite scene stealer is Billie Lourd, who continually pops up as a rich society girl living in her own universe.

Jason Sudeikis is also funny as the high school principal, while Jessica Williams has a great turn as Amy and Molly’s favourite teacher. All of the adults and students that appear in Booksmart have their own well defined back stories that succeed at fleshing them out. At the heart of the film, though, is the relationship between the leads. Yes, there is an emphasis on how these two are a bit out of their element with the crazy party antics and that drives a lot of the humour. However, Wilde also touches on the differences any two people can have, regardless of how close they may be. This gives Booksmart that extra bit of poignancy.

Booksmart succeeds at its primary goal of being a very funny comedy. It’s a high school comedy that doesn’t tone down the strangeness and unfiltered nature of that age. There is an unpredictability to Amy and Molly’s adventures and the film flows humorously from one location to the next. Even familiar tropes like the drug freak-out and sexual encounters are taken in new directions, helping Booksmart stand out from the pack of R-rated teenage comedies. A lot of the film is also carried wonderfully by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, proving themselves as gifted young performers. Olivia Wilde also shows she has the makings of having a good career working behind the camera and it will be exciting to see what future stories she decides to tell.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison