Booksmart (R) ★★★½

High School Female Honor Students Break Some Rules

‘Booksmart,’ Annapurna Pictures

Olivia Wilde’s directing debut is actually ‘smart,’ and savvy, and silly—just the right ingredients for a sure-fire comedic hit. The best friend duo, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are in the final days of High School when they ascertain their ‘extreme studious no-nonsense’ method for academic success has left them with regret. In a sudden decision, they set out to right all of their wrongs by making up for the lost four years in one night.

Opening with a steadfast Molly, sitting on the carpet of her bedroom listening to her self-help recording, then practicing her valedictorian speech, she gives herself a pep-talk, and after finishing her serious proclamation, she removes her retainer from the roof of her mouth. Hysterical! Our introduction to Molly is very cut and dry, as she takes no prisoners and has an agenda to be followed to a tee.

When we meet Kaitlyn, Molly’s BFF, quickly it becomes obvious that she hangs on Molly’s every word. Their friendship is the heart of the script, as screenwriters Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman take us back to High School, where emotions and feelings haven’t changed, but the tech, Uber, gays out of the closet and music are a true snapshot of today’s world. Regardless if you’re 17 or 70, you’ll still connect with the movie, as written, the friendship component has inordinate depth and attentiveness to details you can’t help but relate.

Here’s a quick example of the dialogue:
FELDSTEIN: (As Molly) Amy, we only have one night left to have studied and partied in high school. Otherwise, we’re just going to be the girls that missed out. We haven’t done anything. We haven’t broken any rules.
DEVER: (As Amy) OK. We’ve broken a lot of rules. One, we have fake IDs.
FELDSTEIN: (As Molly) Fake college IDs so we can get into their 24-hour library.

As for the adults in the film, Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) pleads with the girl’s to ‘lighten up,’ even he can’t take their non-stop serious natures. Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte play Amy’s peculiar parents, and Jessica Williams is the “ultra cool” teacher.
Once the girls make a vow to party and ‘get with’ their prospective crushes, it’s their journey toward their goals that make the movie. As the night begins, the urgency factor is getting to cute Nick’s (Mason Gooding) house party, the only problem, his address is unknown. They end up at a sad, no guests yacht party given by the wealthy apple-polisher Jared (Skyler Gisondo) with full wait staff and uproarious antics. Billie Lourd, (Gigi) steals the show here, she’s also the granddaughter of the late Carrie Fisher.

Other encounters are a gay murder-mystery, a mishap involving drug-dipped strawberries, a creepy pizza delivery guy, and an unexpected Uber driver. Feminist nods include Michelle Obama, RBG, and Malala.

“Booksmart” has been labeled the female “Superbad” which is a natural reaction as Jonah Hill’s sister is Beanie Feldstein, although “Booksmart” at its core is more about living life to the fullest and crossing over from adolescence to adulthood. I’d say comparing it to Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is more on target.

Olivia Wilde shines here as director, the pacing, is spot-on, it’s as if the ‘horse is out of the barn’ when the girls start their journey, the narrative is perfect as much of the dialog is fast, excited, adrenaline-filled creating a very organic teen dialogue. Yes, there’s so much to appreciate in this entertaining, frenzied–tone movie—especially the two leading females that have a tremendous acting career future to look forward to.

Cast: Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), Molly Gordon, (Triple A) Billie Lourd, (Gigi) Skyler Gisondo,(Jared) Noah Galvin, (George) Diana Silvers, (Hope) Mason Gooding, Victoria Ruesga, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco (Theo) and Nico Hiraga (Tanner). Sudeikis, (Principal) Jessica Williams, (Mrs. Fine) Lisa Kudrow (Amy’s Mother) and Will Forte (Amy’s Dad).

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 28, 2019