Booksmart kicks off like a modern Superbad, but quickly after the opening hijinks and raunchy comedy, the film takes its own turn and becomes not only a great comedy, but a truly captivating coming-of-age tale. Rookie director Olivia Wilde spins together a heartwarming look at what it means to finally break the rules, live spontaneously and enjoy those final days of high school. Co-stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein work well together, and the rest of the cast follows suit. This is a film that was unexpectedly real, considering all of the unbelievable antics these girls find themselves getting into.
Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) are perfect students, confident women, and inseparable best friends. Their entire high school careers have been about being responsible and getting into the best colleges in the country. When Molly overhears a few of her “moronic” classmates talking about getting into top schools as well, she has a panic attack. Did she really spend her entire high school career buried in homework and books, while her counterparts partied and still got into the best universities? After a bit of convincing, Molly gets Amy to go out with her on the last night of high school, and the girls get ready for the best night of their lives.
Dever and Feldstein develop a chemistry that is noticeable as the film gets more dramatic, and the duo transform Booksmart from a run-of-the-mill summer comedy, to spectacular summer flick.
Wilde’s playful direction and a sharp script keep Booksmart from diving into mere Superbad homage, and delivers an intimate view of these girls who seem to have it all figured out but are struggling to have fun. By using extreme close-ups and an amazing alternative pop soundtrack, Wilde tells much of the story through the camera and music.
Booksmart succeeds as a raunchy, funny, emotional journey for a new age. The film touches on friendship, heartbreak, accomplishment and most importantly, self-discovery. These are themes that can be hard to work with, and mawkish if fumbled, but Wilde and her team handle themselves more than capably, ideally hinting at a bright future for all involved.