The newest comedy “Booksmart” is a fun and refreshing film from start to finish. It follows best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) who are about to graduate high school. Throughout their academic careers, Molly and Amy were devoted to their studies and never partied or strayed from success, giving them both a sense of arrogance when it came to the rest of their graduating class.
The events of the movie kick off as Molly — who’s set to go to Yale in the fall — learns that her peers, who she’d previously written off as less than her for partying or slacking off in class, were also admitted to elite schools and had grand plans for their futures. As she and Amy question the way they spent their high school years, they realize they have one night left until graduation, so they attempt to spend that time doing things they’d tried so carefully to avoid. From that point forward, the movie focuses on Molly and Amy heading to Los Angeles in search of an epic party that’ll help them make up for lost time.
The film’s tone feels similar to other recent cult successes with female leads, such as “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Lady Bird,” which also stars Feldstein as the main character’s best friend. “Booksmart” is even more similar to “Lady Bird” in that regard, as the friendship between Molly and Amy is at the forefront of the film. Feldstein and Dever have magnificent chemistry together, and during their scenes, it’s easy to believe they’ve known each other for years. In fact, Amy’s parents, played by “Friends” actress Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte from “The Last Man on Earth,” are under the impression that Amy and Molly are dating due to their level of closeness.
Amy came out to her parents two years ago when she was a sophomore. It’s known throughout the film that she has a crush on a fellow student named Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), while Molly crushes on a boy named Nick (Mason Gooding). These minor romances are distant subplots in the film, but Amy’s sexuality being more or less insignificant to her character is just one of the ways “Booksmart” is progressive.
The film is additionally forward-thinking due to its breaking down of stereotypes. In high school especially, it can be hard for people to not see other students in specific categories, such as “jock,” “mean girl,” “stoner” or “nerd.” This simple stereotyping also stems from how prevalent it’s always been in different high school movies and television shows. “Booksmart” picks apart these roles and shows that just because a student may party often, they could still get into an excellent school, and most clearly shown in the movie, so-called “nerds” can still have fun at crazy parties.
As Molly and Amy’s wild night comes to a close and they get ready for graduation, the film shifts from having its plot focus on the two of them making up for lost time to them realizing they’re not just saying goodbye to high school, but to each other. Amy is spending a year abroad in Botswana instead of starting up her college career in the fall like Molly, and viewers can feel the emotions the two friends share as their inevitable parting becomes a reality. Though for however long they’ll spend apart, the film assures the two will remain friends for the rest of their lives.
Olivia Wilde did an outstanding job with her directorial debut. “Booksmart” is sharp, witty, hilarious and relatable for all types of audiences. Whether one is still in high school or long past it, “Booksmart” promises a fun and memorable movie that deserves its rightful praise.
Contact Kira Baldau at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.