Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut manages to perfectly encapsulate the spirit of unapologetic youth, drawing us into all the highs and lows that accompany it.
Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Beautiful Boy) are Molly and Amy, two headstrong best friends who have spent their entire high school career putting work ahead of everything, and to great success; Molly is headed to Yale University, while queer feminist Amy plans to volunteer in Botswana for the summer before attending Columbia University. Everything has gone to plan for Molly and Amy. That is until the day before graduation, when, to their great shock, they discover that the rest of their classmates are also graduating into great jobs or elite universities, despite their incessant partying throughout the year. Determined to make up for all they’ve missed out on, and to prove they are ‘fun’, the film takes us alongside Molly and Amy as they attempt to make up for four years’ worth of teenage recklessness in one night.
With a fast-paced plot, snappy editing, and effortless cinematography, their adventure flies by in just 105 minutes- yet nothing gets lost, no scene is out of place (not even the bizarre drug-fuelled barbie nightmare). And through every scene shines Wilde’s sharp sense of humour, while still maintaining a script that has a rooted awareness of the place we’re in now, through contemporary references and a sense of self-reflectivity that further connects us to the characters. Not only is it refreshing to see a film finally star a lesbian character without it limiting her story, but also to see two teenage girls talk about sex so freely, something that for decades has been frowned upon. The supporting cast is just as diverse and provides hilarious, exaggerated character types of people we can all recognise in our own lives. Booksmart is progressive and inclusive, without this feeling forced and without the need for queerbaiting, that we so often see in media today.
Both in its creation and in its content, Booksmart is a powerful, female-driven spectacle. It manages to revitalise the classic teen comedy, while still holding true to the old-time message: friendships are everything. And, while I believe the film is purely fun, there is perhaps also a lesson to learn about the importance of living life outside of books, a lesson that is particularly poignant for young women who feel pressure to prove themselves in order to succeed. Overall, I grade Booksmart top of the class.
Image Credit: Annapurna Pictures