On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Olivia Wilde’s feature debut is a smart and funny coming of age comedy about the friendship between two girls who are getting ready to head off to college. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have been best friends since childhood and they’ve spent their years in high school diligently studying and avoiding other, more leisurely pursuits in order to get into the best colleges. On the day before graduation they discover that many of their fellow students have also got into the best colleges despite a lax attitude to studying, and the friends decide to use that night to make up for the time they’ve lost.
The film takes place mostly over one day and night and the ‘Superbad’ comparisons are most apparent in the setting as the girls jump from party to party, incident to incident, as they search for the location of Nick’s party (and also because Feldstein happens to be Jonah Hill’s younger sister). However, ‘Booksmart’ is primarily focused on female friendship and specifically the friendship between Amy and Molly, which is played out beautifully by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein who cover many aspects of a friendship over the course of one night. They’re not perfect but they have a true friendship and the doubts they have about the direction their lives will go in after school are smartly played out by Wilde and her lead actresses. Like all good coming of age films, the characters learn a lot about themselves over the course of the film, and I felt Wilde and the four screenwriters made some clever choices in how the story develops.
On the outskirts of the core story, ‘Booksmart’ still manages to find time to drop into the stories of some of the supporting characters, and the film is mostly devoid of the archetypes of high school comedies. Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow are particularly great together as Amy’s parents, and there are some fun performances amongst the actors and actresses playing the other kids preparing for graduation. I really enjoyed ‘Booksmart’ and I thought that it captured this phase of growing up in all its messy glory really well, and this is a top tier coming of age comedy that deserves a wider audience than it seems to have managed thus far.
Directed By: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Noah Galvin, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte and Mike O’Brien