Booksmart (2019) - Olivia Wilde
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
The coming of age comedy is a tried and tested genre. Often, too often, it feels little too trying. When done right, it taps into something so universal and so deep within us that the story becomes something we cherish, adore and delight in. Mainly this is because we've all been there. Coming of age dramas typically take place during the final year/day/week/summer (delete where applicable) in our characters young lives. A moment in time that serves as a bridge to the bigger, wider world that awaits us. And we've all had these moments. Although if the movies are anything to go by, we never experience coming of age that film characters have had.
Booksmart, the directorial debut from Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, A Vigilante, Rush) is the perfect coming of age comedy. an instant classic, it delivers everything you could want from this type of film without ever feeling predictable or familiar. Principally this is down to a sharp and insightful script, co-written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman and two exceptional performances from Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as best friends Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever). Both are straight A students, who on the night before graduating realise that they have wasted the best years of the youth by focussing too intently on study and not at all of partying. This simple, yet delightful premise sets up the films weird, wonderful and downright hilarious escapades as the friends set out to have party.
You might think this premise sounds familiar, and in a way it is. But in execution, through the deft script, performances and excellent, flamboyant direction from Wilde, the film coalesces into nothing short of miraculous. Firstly, all the actors feel of age, and natural, and both likeable and unlikeable, in a way only teenagers seemed to be. The film is also socially conscious, culturally aware and incredibly liberal and open-minded. A broad range of current topics (sexuality, gender, class etc.) come under the scripts microscope, yet the film never feels like it's making a statement. Instead it feels like characters navigating an increasingly complex world with openness, confusion and a searing sense of humour.
As the plot races towards its inevitable, yet no less satisfying, conclusion, we are taken on a rollercoasters of fun, frolics and social commentary (a sequence with the girls' principal working a second job as a Lift driver is a particularly cringeworthy and tear inducing delight). At the heart of the film is a rich and loving friendship between Molly and Amy. This is the heart of the picture, and its their moments together, both good and bad, where this film won me over. There is a real sense of not just history between them, but mutual, unconditional love and affection. The kind, the movies tell us, seem to only exist when we're a school.
All great coming of age stories are ones you can relate too, but perhaps more importantly are films in which you want to spend time with the characters. I really wanted to keep spending time with Molly and Amy. They may not have partied much during high school, but they definitely know how to have a good time.