Booksmart is the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde. It has been getting rave reviews ever since it’s debut at the South By Southwest Film Festival back in March. With some direct comparisons to the comedy classic Superbad, will it be able to prove it’s spot atop the comedy genre?
Booksmart opens up with Molly and Amy, two best friends and seniors going to their last day of school. It’s shown right away that these two are overachievers in a sense and take their schooling very seriously. Molly talks about going to Yale and Amy is going to Africa to help make tampons for the poor for her summer. After a run-in with some “less successful” students, Molly learns that they are also going to schools like Yale or getting jobs at Google. Realizing that they missed out on all the fun, they have one night to get it out of their system.
What I Liked
The aspect of this movie that stands out as the biggest positive throughout is the performances. Everyone from the main characters to the side characters in only one scene delivers their absolute best. Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Amy, was the standout. She blends comedy, drama, and heart over the course of the whole movie. Billie Lourd and Noah Galvin were the two side characters who made the most of what they were given. There is a certain karaoke scene involving Noah Galvin that might have been the biggest laugh in the theater.
The kids aren’t the only great performances in Booksmart. Olivia Wilde makes use of some IOUs. She pulls in her fiance Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte as the adults in the film. Forte and Kudrow play the parents of Amy and are these hilariously innocent parents. Sudeikis plays the principal of the school and ends up with some of the best one-liners in the entire movie. All of them do amazing in their limited roles.
“Fuck those losers. Fuck them right in their stupid fucking faces.”
Olivia Wilde also proves with Booksmart that she is going to be a force as a director for years to come. She took some huge chances and not every single one hit perfectly but the ones that hit, hit hard. The direction of the entire 3rd act is so well that it’s mesmerizing to watch. Keep your eye out for a great pool sequence followed by a long single tracking shot which ends with probably the best acting in the movie.
Finally, there needs to be something said about the soundtrack which fit perfectly. Even if it’s just a quick 5-second clip from a song it always does exactly what it’s intended. The juxtaposition of these songs playing over these two perfectionist girls who haven’t partied a day in their life is hilarious.
What Could Have Been Improved
The biggest flaw in Booksmart comes in the 2nd act. At this point in the film we find Molly and Amy trying to get to the party they so badly want to be at but of course, things don’t go as planned. The success of this movie is based on the entire class and great side characters and there is a lack of that during the middle. There was also a really weird scene that completely takes you out of the movie. You will know exactly what scene it is when you watch it.
While the performances were great, there was one that was ultimately pretty disappointing. Beanie Feldstein, who plays Molly, was not as good as those around her. She has some pretty funny moments but compared to the rest of the cast, she was just outmatched and part of that might have been what she was given to work with script-wise.
The comedy genre has been weak in recent years, give or take a couple of gems. Booksmart does everything it does to right the ship. This film is a wonderful debut for Olivia Wilde. This makes anything she does in the future something worth keeping an eye on. As for the comparisons to Superbad? They are valid. Superbad delivers more with the humor, where Booksmart has more heart and emotion. If you are a fan of comedies, this film will not disappoint you.
Overall Score 4/5