From start to finish, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart (2019) is a wild (wordplay unintended) ride. Wilde’s coming-of-age comedy directorial debut is simultaneously hilarious and entertaining, and remarkably heartfelt and relatable. The movie is really just a joy to experience, and as I watched it for the second time this past weekend, I found myself smiling throughout it.
The film’s plot is quite simple; the majority of it takes place over a single night. School-focused best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) come to a striking realization on the final day of their senior year: they are not the only people in their school who have managed to get into good colleges, but they are the only students who have spent all of high school focused solely on school rather than having fun. They decide that they can’t allow themselves to have gone through all of high school without partying, and they set out to spend the night celebrating with their classmates. This leads to fun, some trouble, and ultimately, new conclusions about themselves and the people around them.
The movie is incredibly fun to watch. Its depictions of Molly and Amy’s misadventures are hilarious — from an imaginative sequence during which the girls see themselves as dolls due to an accidental drug-trip, to a mad-dash to make it to graduation in time. Their awkward encounters are also both relatable and funny, including a very cringe-worthy conversation between Amy and her crush near the beginning of the movie. The soundtrack is great and enhances the energy of the film as a whole, and I really enjoyed the casts’ performances — particularly those of Feldstein and Dever, whose characters feel incredibly genuine.
Booksmart does a fantastic job of portraying women. Molly and Amy are both smart, funny, and opinionated, and their characters — along with their friendship — are very complex. In fact, one of my favorite elements of the film is its focus on the friendship between the two, which is full of love and support. Feldstein and Dever have fantastic chemistry and their characters’ best-friendship is heartwarming. They dance together, constantly compliment each other, and consistently help each other to be the best people they can be.
Both Molly and Amy also have great arcs over the course of the story. As the girls who start off the film highly judgmental of their classmates venture out of their comfort zones, they learn that you need to get to know people before you can pass judgement on them — as they see that there is more to their classmates than meets the eye. They also learn that it’s okay to loosen up sometimes and not focus solely on getting ahead.
The film is also quite groundbreaking in the fact that Amy, one of the two leads, is openly a lesbian. A large part of her character arc has to do with her pursuing a relationship with another girl, and it’s striking that in a film that talks a lot about teen sexuality, the only sex scene is a queer one. With the fact that so many current films that depict queer women are set in the past, it’s refreshing to see a lesbian character existing in the modern world.
Booksmart does stumble a little when it comes to representation of people of color; all of the leads with complex arcs are white. While there are multiple people of color in the film, none of them have more than a supporting role in the story. The film’s portrayal of women, especially queer women, is fantastic. However, it’s also notable that Booksmart, like so many current coming-of-age films, is centered on white characters.
In all, Booksmart is a great movie that will leave you laughing, smiling, and maybe even tearing up a bit as you watch Molly and Amy — whose previous idea of being wild was owning fake college IDs to get into a college library — get into some trouble as they celebrate the end of high school.
Movie review originally posted by Maddie Rehrman on January 29, 2021.