It’s the last day of school and nobody knows that teenagers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are actually fun to be with. In making the shock realisation that even those who didn’t focus on good grades still get to college, Molly suggests a rapid change by becoming the party animals they never were.
… two sublime performances beautifully joined at the textbook.
In ‘Booksmart’, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut isn’t just a woke response to the many teenage comedy/dramas that have gone before it. It is, in fact, just one: ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘.
Addressing Matthew Broderick’s killer quote of “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it”, Booksmart’s subtext is actually an irreverent declaration of intent. Eschewing the ‘either-or’ pivoting or work must be done at the expense of play, ‘Booksmart’ delivers a fantastic alternative.
Prescient in a way that doesn’t distance or preach, ‘Booksmart is fast, funny, sassy and smart. Adjectives normally found in the nutritional ingredients of a comedy that doesn’t have any, ‘Booksmart’ has plenty. In a tale of unrequited loves and future dreams, ‘Booksmart’ brings both into sharp focus with its premise of a final day of school. Work is done, the summer is starting and the people you have been sharing your days with may soon be gone.
Tipping over the girl’s repressions over into a night that neither of them will ever forget, ‘Booksmart’ does so by breaking all the rules. Whereas it intentionally avoids the more poisonous aspects of clique culture, it instead renders them as equals in the fast-approaching headlights of maturity. The only off-beat concession here is a reinforcement of a male fantasy, which with its roles reversed, would certainly not have passed inspection – but this is a minor blip. Steaming onwards to a deliciously concealed reveal, ‘Booksmart’ even finds time to deconstruct the paths that brought us here.
In a movie that is perfectly cast with Kaitlyn Dever and her trusty Volvo and Beanie Feldstein with Molly’s valedictorian flight-path, these are two sublime performances beautifully joined at the textbook. As it says on the principal’s door, “being a hip chick now doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to peck your way through life easily.” That said, the crumbs that ‘Booksmart’ smartly scatters in its wake should be a lesson to every movie that follows.
Up in heaven, I’m pretty sure John Hughes will be smiling down.