When it comes to comedies about teenagers going wild, more often than not they focus on male characters. That stereotype may be beginning to change as, following 2018’s Blockers, teen girl characters are once again front and center in Booksmart.
Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends on the verge of graduating from high school and moving on to highly respected universities. Their school-first attitudes are shattered, though, when they learn that many of the popular kids, whom they had assumed didn’t do well in school because of their partying, are also going to great colleges.
In the classic “one last night before school ends” movie tradition, Molly and Amy decide to throw caution to the wind and finally party like everyone else. The only problem is actually getting to the party. The duo endures a host of hijinks en route to their intended destination, in the process learning a lot about their classmates and themselves.
Marking the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde and written by the all-female team of Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman, the film provides a nice mix between over-the-top antics and down-to-earth sensibilities. Befitting the two girls’ mostly buttoned-down personalities, the filmmakers draw laughs from fish-out-of-water scenarios, as well as a variety of characters that stand in stark contrast to their dispositions.
The biggest reason the film works as well as it does is the intimate look into Molly and Amy’s friendship. The audience is privy to a number of private details about their lives that make them highly relatable. They’re goofy, they’re nerdy, and they’re sexual, traits we all share in our own way no matter your background. The film also offers equal time for different sexual orientations, with both girls nursing crushes, one on a boy and one on a girl.
Feldstein, who knocked it out of the park as the sidekick in Lady Bird, shines again in another high school role. With her talent and comic timing, she may soon challenge brother Jonah Hill for acting supremacy. Dever, who’s been in a string of high-profile projects in which she’s not the star, may see her profile rise after this great performance. Special note should also be made of fantastic supporting roles turned in by Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, and Skyler Gisondo.
Booksmart, despite a plethora of profanity and sexual innuendo, is a mostly sweet film that works hard to show the full depth of a female friendship. Showcasing two up-and-coming highly-talented actors, it’s a movie that holds up well against other recent notable comedies.