As shocking as this sounds, I will never know what it’s like to be a teenage girl, no matter how many films I watch that include the struggles of a teenage girl.
Earlier in the year, I watched and reviewed Eighth Grade, which my regular readers will remember I enjoyed immensely, and now there’s this film, based around older characters, but the struggles are similar.
Truth be told, I’m stretching a bit with this comparison. Booksmart, while being ostensibly about the struggles of teenage, and school life, covers more mature themes, such as sexuality, identity, and the looming spectre of adulthood on the horizon, but it does explore what it’s like to be yourself, albeit on different terms.
It also has fiercely feminist overtones, something I don’t find to be a problem, in modern times feminism is an important movement, and to see this be embraced by a narrative is still somewhat refreshing.
Amy and Molly (Kaitlyn Denver and Beanie Feldstein, respectively) are straight-A students one day away from graduation, when they realise that they may have missed out of their best years, the endeavour to attend a party before they graduate, to prove how fun they can be.
Booksmart is a very layered film. On its basest possible level, it is a high-school comedy, of which there have been roughly a million, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a celebration of friendship, identity, and life itself.
The film’s greatest appeal is it’s two lead characters, who share such sharp chemistry that they fizzle and pop off the screen. They draw you in with their humorous facade, so when they dial up the emotion, you really feel for them.
It really is a lesson in characterisation, two characters whose similarities and differences bring them together as opposed to push them apart. One is a shy lesbian, content with her own introverted nature (Amy), the other is much louder, brash, yet still whip smart (Molly). The driving influence behind the night’s events is Molly’s ambition to show that she isn’t the buttoned-up teachers pet her schoolmates think she is.
Of course this is a comedy, so things don’t quite go to plan, the detours are perfectly mapped out when they reach a hilarious, and unexpected crescendo after accidentally consuming hallucinogens. The humour often isn’t high-brow, but it’s expertly executed in its punchlines and situations.
I will keep coming back to the two leads as to why I enjoyed this film so much, they’re engaging, and lovably strange. They are what makes the film special, their dialogue and rapport radiate from the screen, lighting up somewhat familiar surroundings, and making them fresh again.
This isn’t to say they are the only stand-outs, the cast is filled with well-realised performances, driven by excellent writing from the screenwriters. Each character is an unexpected presence, they each go to prove that not everyone should be judged by their outward appearances, and although this realisation is somewhat hackneyed, it really is so well-delivered that it makes you forget you’ve seen it all before.
This film is also actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, and she puts her own stamp on it remarkably well. Favouring tight close-ups, with the additional grace of sweeping follow shots, giving a somewhat dreamy feeling to some sequences. The extreme close-ups are well-used during moments of character growth, so you can read every emotion on the character’s face.
In conclusion, it is no mean feat to take a well-worn concept and make it feel fresh again, to give it a new spin, but this film achieves that, delivering a hilarious, yet heartfelt, piece of comedic cinema that should be remembered for years to come.