Amy (Kaitlyn Dever – ‘Short Term 12’) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein – ‘Lady Bird’) are high school seniors and BFFs who opted to stick to their studies rather than partying with their classmates, to ensure they get into good colleges. On the eve of graduation, having never gone out properly before, they decide to tear up the town and prove to their peers that they can be smart and fun.
Everything about ‘Booksmart’ screams instant classic between its hilarious dialogue, unforgettable characters, and madcap turn of events. It’s up there with coming-of-age comedies like 'Mean Girls' and 'Superbad' (and by surreal coincidence, its star Beanie Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s sister). If this is what Olivia Wilde can produce in her feature debut (though her work on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ music video for “Dark Necessities” was arguably the first sign of her talent), what she’ll follow it with is going to be awesome.
What’s really fresh about ‘Booksmart’ is it portrays a high school without a hierarchy - though it still has plenty of cliques. It’s a hyper competitive environment where not just Molly and Amy’s but everyone’s personalities are larger than life. The students scramble against one another to come up with the wittiest comeback, resulting in a sharp, very funny screenplay. This is a place where you’re mocked whether you’re smart, a jock, into drama or rich.
Dever and Feldstein are fantastic leads. They just exude warmth and likeability, and their characters’ frankness (conversations revolve around masturbation among other blunt topics) is highly entertaining. Their friendship is sweet and touching, it feels genuine at heart. But at the same time, the characters they’re surrounded by – played by more recognizable faces like Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis and Billie Lourd, to relative newcomers like Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo and Diana Silvers – fill out the film and give it body. That incredible script (from Katie Silberman – who previously penned two brilliant Netflix rom coms, ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ and ‘Set It Up’ – alongside Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins) makes it whole.
One doesn’t want to get into exactly what happens as it’s best to go in having no idea what’s going to happen. Safe to say the night Molly and Amy go on is full of chaos, random encounters, and touches of good – and bad – luck. It’s thus been compared particularly to ‘Superbad’, but aside from both films taking place over the last day and night of high school, they’ve nothing else in common. ‘Booksmart’ is all its own and aside from a couple of missteps including an animated sequence that’s too weird to be funny, seems almost perfect. It’s got heart and it’s f**king hilarious. Now how many comedies can you say that about?