Booksmart: Restoring faith in friendship and the films Hollywood makes about them

What a delight it is to soak up storytelling that makes me feel like there is at least some vague hope I might be able to hold down a credible conversation with a teenager.  

Booksmart not only ticked that box but it also managed to restore my faith in friendships and the films Hollywood makes about them.

Actress Olivia Wilde (Rush/Cowboys & Aliens) steps away from the screen and into the director’s chair for Booksmart and what a belter of a first feature. 

This teenage tale of two friends about to graduate may look familiar on first glance but this film bucks just about every cinematic stereotype this genre is inherently rife with, instead, one of those rare finds; fresh, fearless and funny as hell.

Our two best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have worked their butts off all through High School with their eyes on the prize and in their books. Their final week before graduation, Ivy League college life beckoning, it very shockingly dawns on our girls that their blinkered approach to school has had its disadvantages. They don’t know how to party and they don’t really know their classmates. That kind of latent FOMO has a very profound effect on Amy and Molly and they decide to throw themselves into graduation party mode; and not just any party, THE coolest grad party in town.  Sex, drugs and alcohol-fueled fish-out-of-water chaos ensues, just as you might expect.

So far so cliched I hear you say?  Don’t worry I felt the same way, right up until the point the movie started. It was just so immediately clear from the opening few frames that Booksmart was light years away from the cliche.

We are starting to see a real coming-of-age already with how Hollywood tells stories of diversity and inclusion, last year’s wonderful Love, Simon was one of those. Booksmart takes that idea and runs with it; this is not a story of Amy coming out as gay, she did that way before the opening credits rolled. This is instead the very real story of how hard it can be to make that first move and continue the many awkward moves after that, a landscape of physical and emotional challenges all teenagers must navigate regardless of their sexual preferences.

Infuse that with the comedy gold this territory is so rich with, driven by two lead actresses with tangible and entirely engaging chemistry and you get one of the most memorable and rewarding comedies of the year.

More than anything, what I was left with was the nourishing feeling that maybe, as a species, we're not doomed after all. After a steady diet of mean-spirited defeatist stories about how ghastly being a teenager is especially in this heightened age of social media bullying, what Booksmart showed me is that maybe the kids are alright. That the only way you can really push past the Status Updates and Instagram posts is to actually get to know the real person, and that maybe the kid you sat next to all year isn't who they wanted you to think they were after all. And what an awesome message that is for us all to see on the big screen.

4.5 Stars



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