Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Review by: Livi Edmonson
Actress Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed, coming-of-age comedy, “Booksmart” — a film about two best friends who have spent their high school years studying to get into great colleges and now want the chance to party hard on the eve of their graduation. What follows is a night of crazy firsts for both Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), as they come to the revelation that maybe they did miss out on many high school experiences but still maintained something that some people do not get in a high school: a best friendship.
The tale is as old as time — or is it? Nerdy, unpopular high schoolers wanting to have a crazy “last hoorah” before graduating is a common narrative to the teen comedy genre, as we have seen with “Superbad” (2007), “American Pie” (1999), and various other teen flicks. But perhaps the biggest difference between these cult-classics and “Booksmart” is that this flick reinvents the well-known narrative with its inclusiveness, which makes it a story for a new generation.
The 2018 film, “Blockers” broke the male-dominated, raunchy comedy mold last year with its version of the laugh-out-loud, gender-reversed “American Pie” style plot. It also broke barriers with what women can do not only on-screen, but also off-screen, hence its female director, Kay Cannon. Now, “Booksmart” is also putting a feminist take on the coming-of-age comedy by presenting to the world a female “Superbad,” all the while also being directed by actress-turned-female filmmaker, Olivia Wilde.
Actress Beanie Feldstein, best known for her breakout role in the Academy award-nominated, “Lady Bird” (2017), is not quite a stranger to this genre or narrative. In fact, she is actually the real-life, younger sister of “Superbad” legend, Jonah Hill. The two siblings’ roles in both “Superbad” and “Booksmart” even mimic each other in a way yet still contrast with each other in showing the generational gap that has been formed in the genre in just 12 short years.
Feldstein’s performance is not only hilarious, but also superb in every way possible, showing yet again, that she is a natural-born scene-stealer, as most audiences and critics have already seen in “Lady Bird.” Though this role is again, arguably already in her blood, it is safe to say that, “Booksmart” will undoubtedly open up many more comedy roles for her in the future. Feldstein’s co-star, Kaitlyn Dever, is also a comedic force to be reckoned with. Although Dever has starred in many supporting roles before, this film is definitely her first starring role and she does not fall short spectacular. Trust me, she is the one of those actresses you will recognize immediately, but still will not be quite sure how. Both girls are charming, witty, and so hilarious to the point of where audiences will literally be screaming. Their chemistry and friendship in real-life comes alive on-screen, making the film even more enjoyable than it already is.
All in all, “Booksmart” is one of the funniest, not-so-serious flicks I have ever seen — period. Fans of R-rated high school movies like “Superbad,” or really just fans of “Superbad” in general, will jump all over this film, since it not only reinforces certain tropes of the teen comedy genre, but also reinvents them with its powerhouse females taking the reins this time. There are many hilarious supporting characters that are without a doubt, some of the best parts of the film, but overall, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, lead the way with comedic performances that you just cannot miss.
This film is one made for females, or even males, that maybe did not spend their high school years going to parties every weekend, but still developed friendships that will last a lifetime. Maybe this was also the underlying message in “Superbad,” but seeing the narrative transformed in the eyes of a female makes it all the more relatable and nostalgic for both post-high school girls and even girls still in high school. Trust me, it is a hard one to top. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.