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Molly (Beanie Feldstein) is the Class President, Valedictorian and soon-to-be youngest Supreme Court Justice in history if she sticks to the plan. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) is her best friend, newly out, passionately interested in every righteous cause. They’re each other’s right hand, the support system that’s got them through school with their heads down and their eyes on the prize. Until Molly realizes that the kids who partied got into good schools too.
They wasted their time.
They were inefficient.
This cannot stand.
So, the night before graduation, they decide to have fun. By any means necessary.
Written by Emily Halperm, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silverman and directed in her debut by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is a mic drop of a movie for everyone involved. It’s been initially lauded as this generation’s Superbadand that’s pretty accurate. Booksmart is just as filthy and just as filled with epic incompetence as Superbad but it’s closer, if anything, to last year’s The Package. Both movies have an espresso shot of desperation to them, whether the characters are trying to save a friend’s severed penis or have fun on one of the last nights they will have together. Both of them capture, perfectly, the crystallized scream of late end adolescence. One of them does so with 150,000% more dick jokes than the other, but the through line remains the same. So much so that The Package‘s Eduardo Franco has a memorable cameo here.
What makes Booksmart different is the way the movie manages to do three impossible things at once. First and foremost it’s the story of a platonic but deep romance. Amy and Molly love one another completely and you can see why. Amy is Molly’s rock, cautious where she kicks the door in and emotionally locked down where her best friend is an open wound. Molly organizes everything, running headlong into battle with everyone and everything to ensure she and her best friend get the future they deserve and the respect they’re more than due.
Then there’s the way it’s an absolutely off the shelf teen comedy seen through lenses we never see those movies through. Molly and Amy are every kid who ever got grades instead of beer and if the movie had rested on those particular laurels it would have been good enough. But the script is braver than that, showing us the entitlement of the outsider too. An early joke about how another girl in their class is called Triple A because of the ‘roadside attention’ she’s given boys is re-framed later to be shown as the sexist, self-defeating weapon it is when Molly wields it. It’s also, brilliantly, then flipped again and we find out the truth about the situation. This is a movie where nothing’s easy and no one is a simple read. Molly and Amy are outsiders, sure, but that means they pingpong off countless other lives which are all complex enough to be stories in their own right.
Finally, it’s an absolutely no punches pulled examination of teen friendship. There’s an argument the girls were always going to have which escalates in the most organic, realistic way I’ve ever seen. They go from good natured sniping to screaming at one another as the sound drops, Dan the Automator‘s soundtrack rises and Wilde’s camera circles them. As it does so, we see countless smart phone lights come on as the girls are filmed. At the party, still outsiders.
And at the exact moment you think this is going to slide sideways into being a much more serious movie than it is, the next joke drops. Time and again, the only people more surprised than the audience are the girls. Wilde throws everything at them, from a cringe-inducing Lyft ride with their moonlighting High School Principal to Billie Lourd’s maniacal serial partier, Gigi. The Party, the idea of the Party, is like a questing beast made of EDM and terrible wardrobe choices. Catching it doesn’t solve the girl’s problems, it just gives them new ones. Those often come in the form of dizzyingly charming interludes, including Molly’s dance number with her crush and a fantastic scene where the girls are dosed and become convinced they’re dolls. Feldstein and Dever hit every single beat out of the park and their double act is so effortlessly charming and funny you immediately want to watch another movie featuring them. They’re the 21st Century’s Affleck and Damon. Although I get the feeling they’d have much better tastes in back tattoos.
Booksmart, brilliantly, is still in theaters as I write this at something approaching times humans can see films. If you can see it, please do. It’s hilarious, whip smart, filthy and one of my movies of the year.