Thursday, June 6, 2019

Movie Review: "Booksmart" (2019)

Director: Olivia Wilde
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Two studious high school seniors decide to attend the year's last big house party before graduation to prove to their classmates that they are fun.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever on a street lamp in Olivia Wilde's Booksmart (2019)
"Nobody knows that we are fun. They need to know." (Image Source)
Women can have wild adventures in pursuit of a party, too, we just need someone to tell these story. "Booksmart" is actress Olivia Wilde's directorial debut. It is written by Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, and Sarah Haskins. The story revolves around Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), two best friends who have been solely focused on education and student government throughout their high school years, forgoing parties and other activities so they could get into their choice colleges. Their plan seems to have worked. Molly is heading to Yale in the fall, and Amy will be attending Columbia after spending the summer in Africa. When Molly learns that a lot of the party kids who had fun throughout the last four years also got into elite colleges or are moving on to high-paying careers, she decides that she and Amy need to have at least one night of raucous fun to make up for missing out on that experience and to prove to their classmates that they are fun, not just dweebs who study all the time.
Billie Lourd and Kaitlyn Dever in "Booksmart" movie
"Her vagina is probably filled with diplomas." (Image Source)
For years, Hollywood has offered movie after movie about hard-partying 17-and-18-something high schoolers, almost always of the male persuasion, yearning for one last night of freedom before being shackled to the college grind for four-plus more years. It is only more recently that we've seen strong female protagonists and diverse, inclusive casts get their time to shine in sexually empowering stories like "Booksmart." When we watch comedies like this, they have to be funny, moving, and/or entertaining for them to be successful. Luckily, "Booksmart" is all of those things wrapped into one enjoyable package. While the overall story follows the same year-end party formula we've seen time and time again in films like "Superbad," "Blockers," "Can't Hardly Wait," or even as far back as "American Pie," that doesn't make this particular tale any less fun, funny, or amusing. One of the most important aspects of any successful comedy is chemistry between leads, and "Booksmart" absolutely kills in that regard because Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are so, so, so terrific here. They have fantastic chemistry, and they play off of one another as if they were actually best friends in real life. As Amy and Molly, Dever and Feldstein provide a touching ode to a lasting friendship that is not without its problems, which is why it feels so much more believable and realistic than other on-screen pairings we've seen in the past. If their kinship was smooth sailing all the time, it would be a bore to watch. When it comes to the humor, it consists of a lot of awkward cringe comedy, feminist quips, inside gags (Malala!), and raunchy sex-centered jokes. Much of the humor also comes from Billie Lourd's Gigi, who keeps appearing throughout their night to deliver some of the film's more comical-but-ridiculous moments.
Beanie Feldstein and Mason Gooding at a party in the film Booksmart
"Prepare to get consensually bashed." (Image Source)
Olivia Wilde has directed a slam dunk in "Booksmart," which we think will go on to have long-lasting success once it hits DVD/Blu-ray/streaming services. We laughed consistently throughout the film, and though it may not be the funniest flicks we've ever watched, it's more than just a comedy, it's an earnest lesson in friendship, finding your way, and growing up. Fans of coming-of-age R-rated high school raunch comedies will not be disappointed with this offering.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
RT Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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