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‘Booksmart’ – Review

‘Booksmart’ – Review

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If you’re looking to get wild, then you’ve come to the right place because Booksmart delivers a whole lot of fun and completely reinvents the teen comedy for a brand new era.

Told from a wildly original, fresh and modern perspective, Booksmart is an unfiltered comedy about high school best friends and the bonds we create that last a lifetime. Capturing the spirit of our times, the film is a coming of age story for a new generation.

First time director Olivia Wilde absolutely goes for it here, and her on-screen talent shifts behind-the-camera for one amazing directorial debut. Wilde handles the film’s narrative of “what if two best friends discovered that they did high school wrong, and had one night to make up for it” perfectly, and her narrative allows her plenty of freedom for fun. As a director, she really takes her audience on a journey, as her two protagonists, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), set out to prove that they are actually indeed capable of having fun. While there’s plenty of whimsy on display here, Wilde’s focus on the girls’ friendship is what really gives the film its soul. Booksmart is an amazing debut for Wilde and I’m well up for seeing her behind-the-camera again as soon as possible because her talents know no limits.

In terms of casting it doesn’t get much better than Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as Molly and Amy and these two are the complete package. Set up as over-achieving know it all’s at the beginning of the film, you gradually learn that maybe these two aren’t as smart as they think they are, and their discovery that there’s more to life than just achievements and future plans is handled perfectly through these two performers and Wilde’s direction. Feldstein and Dever really deliver on screen with a naturalness to their characters and you certainly buy into the deep friendship that these characters share for each other. However their wild night certainly tests their friendship, and the actresses really bounce off one another with all the crazy drama that they have to contend with. Molly and Amy are a really endearing pair and this is all thanks to the sublime performance of Feldstein and Dever.

While Feldstein and Dever are at Booksmart’s core, if the film does have a scene stealer then it is without-a-doubt Billie Lourd as the extremely eccentrically loud Gigi! This girl might literally be the living embodiment of hedonism gone amuck and her constant presence throughout the film fills Booksmart with a real National Lampoon quality to it. Lourd’s Gigi is definitely the devil on the girls’ shoulders and she’s constantly guiding them in the most strange and savage direction. Gigi’s character really helps to elevate the film’s narrative and she’s an absolute blast!

Those seeking a comedy kick are also in for a real treat with Booksmart, because this film is laugh-out-loud hysterical! Wilde plays fast and loose with the comedy here, and it’s her use of the unexpected and the contradictory that really leaves the audience giggling here. While I can’t dive into the comedy too deeply without running into the risk of spoilers I will say that there were certain key moments, including The Panda scene and Molly and Amy’s interactions with a sketchy pizza delivery guy, that certainly brought out the laughs for me. However, the clincher for the comedy here was definitely the Barbie World scene and the way in which Wilde shot it was just hilarious!

Along with being packed out with sensational comedy, Booksmart is also a very real and heartfelt look at contemporary teenage life and just what it means to be a young person in 2019. While it’s big on the laughs like all teen comedies are, Booksmart, like American Graffiti and American Pie before it, really focuses in on the emotional lives of its characters, and how they’re trying to figure out what the world means to them and just where they sit in it. Wilde’s film is extremely heartfelt and you really feel for Molly and Amy as they suddenly try to live their entire teenage existence in a single night, and have to deal with all of the emotions that come with it. Booksmart is a terrific new entry in the coming-of-age category and it definitely needs to be celebrated for the scope and emotion that it brings to the genre.

Booksmart also features an incredible soundtrack which really elevates the visuals and emotional drama that is present on the screen. Its strong emphasis on music really helps to communicate the film’s narrative to audiences. My personal favourite piece of music from the film is Perfume Genius’s “Slip Away” which is used in a key scene to build out Booksmart’s underlying romantic and dramatic tension, and its seamless integration with the beautifully shot images of cinematographer Jason McCormick really highlight the adolescent experience that the characters are going through. Booksmart absolutely gets its musical score right and it really elevates the emotion and the narrative that Wilde is telling with her film.

Booksmart is a total A+ ride for moviegoers and Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut stands out as one of the most original pieces of cinema seen all year. Audiences will be buzzing after they see this film, and there’s a whole lot of fun to be had.

Image: Universal Pictures