Even though I’m 32, there was nothing quite like being a teenager. I know for some people that time in their life was challenging. And, I think that’s the case for everyone in a lot of different ways. I’ve had a lot of successes and are really loving the season of life I’m in now, but I can’t explain why my teenage years were some of the best.
I mean I can. That’s the whole point of this intro to my review, but you get what I’m saying.
Being a teenager was all I could think about growing up. For a lot of us that’s just how it is. That cool factor, that young adulting, that reckless rebellion. It’s all those things. The girls, the parties, the girls. What can I say? I was informed by the media I consumed as a child.
80’s baby, 90’s kid. The “Rat Pack” films were great. They were classic 80’s and a time capsule to that generation and what it meant to be a kid growing up then. I revered the stories but embraced the ones that belonged to me.
“Clueless”, “She’s All That”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Can’t Hardly Wait”, “Trojan War” (like almost anything with Jennifer Love Hewitt in them), “American Pie”,” Mean Girls”, “Superbad”
As teens we made everything feel like it was the whole world to us in everything we said and did, and the beautiful thing is that hasn’t changed. Times have changed. Media has changed and of course technology has too, but life is cyclical and as I watch the teen stories we get now if you strip them down, at their core you have your archetypes, your class systems, parents wanting to lord over you, and adult decisions you’ll have to make as you near the end of your High School journey. Movies like “Easy A”, “The Duff”, “Edge of Seventeen”, “Love, Simon”, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, “The Perfect Date” (I guess anything that has Noah Centineo in them).
So why don’t we get tired of this genre? For one, when these stories are told well, with likeable and engaging characters, unique perspectives and great scripts there undeniably desirable.
Add “Booksmart” to that list.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are the class of 2019’s Salutatorian and Valedictorian respectively. They’ve done everything the right way. They’ve played by the rules. They’re far from boring, have interesting high school stories to remember and have an amazing friendship. It’s the last day of school and as the day closes and the finality of their HS experience sets in a can of worms is opened. It was a rule to not reveal where students would go to college after high school, as to be sensitive to those that may not be doing anything that great. A unique conversation in a coed bathroom reveals to Molly that her and Amy’s college destination was not as prestigious as they thought. Not that Columbia and Yale aren’t prestigious. But, the over partying slackers and cool kids the 2 tried to distance themselves from got into the very same schools. Molly then questions most of the graduating class and later that evening upon her findings she challenges Amy to tag along with her this last night and go to the coolest kid in school’s party before Amy leaves off to help build tampons in Uganda.
I had a hard pill to swallow. I heard about the warm reception to this film, making the rounds on the film festival circuit and when I saw the trailer I really wasn’t excited. “Superbad” was my “Booksmart” which came out a couple of years after I graduated high school. It still resonates with me so powerfully and was very representative of how my experience. I felt “Booksmart” was another forced Hollywood gender swap pandering trash film with nothing of substance to say and really didn’t give it the shot it deserved. I’m sorry for that Olivia Wilde.
Shit, was I wrong! While the trailer seemed redundant and felt like a paint by numbers delivery of dick jokes, F-bombs, zany situations over the top parties, which it was. It was also more than that.
The film applies context to every scene to give you everything else to satisfy you. Ultimately, like many of the great teen comedies that came before it, this movie has heart. It’s great when you can get honest representation on screen, and it’s even greater and more impressive when it comes from a first-time director in Olivia Wilde, and team of 4 talented writers who are women too. This script is such a strong lens to the high school experience as it is now. This team crafts a story that’s representative, bold and fresh.
Were in a different time now and with every teen’s generation they evolve. Music, parties, sex and drugs seem to define the time in some way. The 80’s were, the music and alcohol. The 90’s was music and marijuana. Alcohol was a given by then. In the 2000’s it was music and texting as alcohol and weed were even more widely tolerated. The teens now; well the ante gets raised and while music defines every generation, not much is off limits in this film. Alcohol is like water, drugs are like candy, sex is fluid, and social media heightens them all. This film celebrates the best and worst of its generation but its inescapable the honesty that’s poured into this script and the way the story is told.
“Booksmart” not only needs a great script to be an all timer, but it also needs great performances. Kaitlyn and Beanie are incredible. They’re not to be compared to the duo’s in Teen Film’s past but stand on their own. Can you say you’ve seen these characters before? Possibly! But they’re different and unique in their own way. These 2 actors bring tender moments and some of the best playfulness I’ve ever seen exhibited between 2 best friends on screen. The way they argue, the way they talk to each other, the way they relate to their peers and even authority figures. They knock it out of the park and leave strong impressions all over the film.
This film has in it a lot of what the films I mentioned earlier do. Great, likeable and engaging characters. Like the films I grew up with they have just awesome names too. Miss fine, Triple A, Gigi.
Let’s talk about Gigi. My God, Billie Lourd serves up her best performance to date and equally flourishes in every scene she’s in. she’s a full-blown crazy, sexy, mess of a character and she lights up the screen and your grin throughout the movie.
It’s going to be real hard not smile at this. Regardless of your age, your hesitation or even tastes in music. This film is slickly scored and boasts an incredible soundtrack. I couldn’t tell you a single artist on it, but that goes to show you how well the music compliments the storytelling. Instead of sounding like tired radio songs. When I heard the praise about there being a joke every minute I always laugh that off, but you really can’t with “Booksmart.” I don’t want to compare, but like how “Superbad” bowled me over this film does the same. It doesn’t copy at all it only celebrates teens today. We all go through similar journeys no matter what generation you belong to, but this is totally its own and you’ll be thankful after watching it that you get to feel like a teen in this era.
It’s not all that bad.
“Booksmart”, honestly is way better than I was trying to give it credit for. Its smarter thank you think. Hilarious. Not pandering to a cheap gender swap at all either. There’s fresh, unique and empowering perspectives, diversity and representation. What a great directorial debut alongside a team of talented female writers helming this project. This is the capstone to today’s teens and an end of HS experience movie with a lot to say, from 2 best friends how they see it, and how they find themselves in each other and their classmates along the way.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 9/10
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writers: Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd
Run Time: 102 mins