From her most notable television role of playing Thirteen on House to Quorra from 2010s Tron: Legacy, there’s no shortage of Olivia Wilde’s talent. After acting for over two decades, the actress decided to try her hand behind the scenes and that brings us to 2019’s Booksmart, starring Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12, Detroit), Beanie Feldstein (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Lady Bird), Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses, We’re The Millers), the film centers around the highly intelligent Molly and Amy, who focused on their school work more than outside parties and drinking. Suddenly, when the girls realize that they have missed out on the special moments of their young years, they decide to break the rules and go out for one night of fun, which turns out to be a chaotic adventure that they’ll never forget.
The film was first released during the film festival, South By Southwest, and the indie title was praised for its hilarious coming-of-age story featuring two female leads. The movie managed to get a strong 96% on rotten tomatoes from over 350 critics and was officially released on May 24, 2019. Unfortunately, it also had a tough competition that weekend as the classic retelling of Aladdin hit theaters as well. Not surprisingly, the Disney retelling burst onto the scene with nearly $92 million domestically, with heavy-hitters Avengers: Endgame and John Wick 3 following closely behind. Booksmart would debut with nearly $7 million, though the highly lauded comedy quickly disappeared from the charts because of the busy summer season in 2019. Beanie Feldstein would end up being nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress, musical or comedy.
First, it was a huge mistake releasing this small movie against juggernauts Aladdin, Avengers; Endgame, and J0hn Wick 3. We’re in the age of superheroes, remakes, and retired ex-assassin a**kickers, thus Annapurna’s strategy of trying to counter those huge franchises with a raunchy comedy in the vein of Superbad failed. However, there’s a reason that this film is an underrated gem, which stems from the three most important ingredients that every comedy must have: fun characters, strong dialogue, and a coherent story. Granted, this is essentially the rule for every film; however, comedy heavily relies on the strength of its characters and dialogue. The characters don’t have to be likable (I’m looking at you McLovin’); however, they do have to be interesting.
Luckily, Amy and Molly are a likable presence throughout the film and it helps that the two leads have amazing chemistry with one another. We’ve seen this type of pair before, Kaitlyn Dever playing the uptight bookworm who just needs to come out of her shell and Beanie Feldstein playing the wild friend; however, what makes this film fresh is that we’re following the perspective of two women, which is a rarity in this type of genre. Combine those characters with wacky antics and fun dialogue such as, “Good morning, winner. Take a deep breath. Visualize the mountain of your success and look down at everyone who’s ever doubted you. F*** those losers. F*** them in their stupid f****** faces.”
Of course, the entire cast is full of fun characters. There’s the handjob queen, who happens to get straight A’s. Two over-dramatic drama theater queens. A skateboarding chick who could rival as Miley Cyrus’s clone. And a pizza delivery guy who happens to be a murderer. The movie isn’t afraid to dive into shenanigans that are often unpredictable. One of the funniest sequences involves the girls turning into dolls. That’s all I’m saying. Just check the movie out if you’re curious. In terms of the story, Booksmart is a relatable movie because we’ve all been in the high school stage. You’ll be able to identify with at least one character in the film or understand the plight that Amy and Molly are going through. The film isn’t about having wild fun, it’s about how sometimes in life you need to take risks, whether it turns out good or bad. Being smart is a great thing, but it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice some of the special moments in life just to get ahead. The movie touches on the themes of adolescence pretty well, without beating the audience over the head with its message or dumbing down its characters just to prove a point.
All-in-All, Booksmart is an intelligent coming-of-age story that you should see. It represents the modern generation proudly and boasts numerous laugh-out-loud moments.