In the canon of excellent teen films, Booksmart‘s addition to the likes of Easy A, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Edge of Seventeen is well earned. With sparkling and sincere performances from the leads, a soundtrack that never hits a dull note and a central tale about friendship and growing up that will grab you by the heartstrings and refuse to let go, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is fantastic.
Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) have finished high school – almost – without any trouble, graduating in the top of their class and with places at some of the top colleges in the country. On the last day of school, the revelation that their fellow classmates not only got accepted to the same colleges as them, they also were able to break the rules, party and have fun while doing it.
Determined to embrace their wild sides, the two best friends decide to spend the night getting into the best parties that the class of 2019 have to offer, getting met with more than a few roadblocks in the way.
Feldstein and Dever’s chemistry is perfect as two friends who barely need to talk to get their points across to each other, completely unembarrassed to dance in the street, with bedrooms laden with placards for pro-choice movements, Black Lives Matter, and motivational posters. They are given room to explore and celebrate their sexuality – with a painfully funny scene involving a stuffed panda – with the kind of frank and hilarious that teenage girls the world over have a regular basis with their friends – something that is not always shown on screen.
As their trip across town in search of the end-of-year party takes them in various odd and interesting directions, the supporting cast too is given time to shine. There the rich-kid Jared (Skyler Gisondo) who tries to make up with money what he lacks in true relationships, the semi-warring heads of the drama department George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) whose murder-mystery party (complete with family segerated to the kitchen) is truly a spectacle to behold, and Gigi (Billie Lourd) who blends an odd vulnerability with pure unadulterated madness. Lourd’s performance, complete with a dive from the top of a yacht, drug-covered strawberries and one of the best entrance scenes in recent history, is a complete delight.
Like well-written coming-of-age films have always done, Booksmart captures the humour and the pain of high-school. There is something to be said about the hidden depths that everyone around you has, whether you were paying attention or not.
Wilde’s direction is fantastic, with a soundtrack that elevates ever scene, from the realms of fantasy, to a heart-breaking argument with a best friend. Each character is treated with care and love, with any humour that comes from their idiosyncrasies never directed at those behaviours but rather at the world’s reaction.
Here’s to more excellent coming-of-age films that can make me laugh as hard as I did at “Bar-the-lona”.