Thursday, May 23, 2019

Booksmart: Movie Review

Smart, funny and entertaining.
Booksmart straddles the very difficult line of entertaining but still remaining within the realm of reasonability. Well, the characters start centered within our reality and while things go further out of control than they would for those of us who don’t live in movie universes, the characters are still tethered to relatability, and as a result the movie can just take us for a ride.   2019

Directed by: Olivia Wilde

Screenplay by: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel

Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever

Our two booksmart girls Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are graduating from high school after achieving their academic goals. Most movies write smart characters as unrealistically smart, that take things to extremes and they are no longer relatable to actual smart people. But not Booksmart. These girls are your typical smart students. They studied hard, they can quote world leaders, and they can annoy their teachers by regaling them with the specifics of procedurals on the Senate floor. They’re also not the same. Molly is driven by a need to be the smartest and know everything she needs to know to achieve whatever goals she wants. Amy is more laid back - she’s smart because she likes studying hard and she prefers school over making friends with anybody other than Molly; reading books are easier than reading people.

The characters are so well written it doesn’t take long to establish their personalities and connect the audience to them. Molly is shocked to learn that she’s not the only one from their graduating class to go to Yale. In fact most of her classmates that she has identified as losers have achieved good grades and gotten into good schools. Molly was under the impression that you either were cool and partied or you studied and excelled at school. Since both is apparently an option, she and Amy now have to attend the coolest party in school.

The bulk of the movie is mostly misguided attempts to figure out how to get to this party, and relying on the only people they know – adults. I find the movie slows down a lot as the girls are forced out of their comfort zone and try to make it to a party. But this is also the part of the movie that gets it compared to a female Superbad. Hey Superbad is a popular movie, but just because the lead characters are female doesn’t mean we have to gender this one as if it makes it less than. Booksmart also brings their characters back down to reality at a crucial point to keep the movie grounded. After all, it’s about their friendship, it’s not just about a party.

Now is a great time to highlight Skyler Gisondo as Jared. Perhaps best known as the neighbour on Santa Clarita Diet, he tries to shed that awkwardness he’s excelled at in the past and just nails the comedic edge of a teenager who’s a lot more confident and aware than he lets on. I adore this actor and this should help to keep him in the spotlight.

Amy is by far the more relatable between her and Molly. She has the awkwardness that Jared successfully glosses over while Molly has the confidence that she doesn’t want to lose. Amy is trying to navigate a real crush, but Molly is just trying to succeed at partying before graduating. The movie has good pacing as graduation day comes fast and it doesn’t lose any of the laughs including Molly and Amy making an uncharacteristic entrance and Jared delivering a very Molly-esque speech on her behalf.