by Charles Kirkland, Jr.
Guys can be bad, now it’s the girls turn in the new movie, Booksmart.
Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are smart, dedicated girls with a plan. They are the top of their class academically and Molly is the president of the Student Government which has gotten them into the college of their dreams, Yale. On the day before their graduation, Molly discovers that all the slackers that she has prided herself on being superior to have also gotten into not only Yale but Stanford, Georgetown, and other prestigious schools. Coming to the realization that she and Amy may have wasted their high school experience, Molly drags Amy out to crash the graduation party event thrown by the SGA Vice-President, Nick (Mason Gooding, son of Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr).
Twelve years ago, a small independent film named Superbad introduced us to a barely known newcomer named Jonah Hill, a relatively unknown newcomer in Michael Cera and totally unknown new actor, Christopher Mintz-Plasse in a raucous and raunchy story about outcast friends who wanted to experience the biggest party before their senior year comes to a close. Written by Susana Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me) Emily Halpern (TV’s The Mayor, Good Girls), Sarah Haskins (TV’s The Mayor, Good Girls) and Katie Silberman (Isn’t It Romantic), Booksmart is the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde and stars newcomers Feldstein (Jonah Hill’s sister) and Dever along with comedy stalwarts Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow in a story that, minus much of the raunch, is the female equivalent of Superbad.
In this movie, the girls are smarter than boys. Molly and Amy are super-smart and laser-focused, at least Molly is. When the realization is that the world nowadays is looking for more than super-smart hits Molly, she drags Amy around to find the ultimate party. Much like in the other movie, Seth was dragging Evan through the evening when he realized that their lives would not be fulfilled if they didn’t throw the ultimate party. In both movies, the hilarity lies in the journey toward the party. The fallacy that one night of partying will make up for the four years of social events is where the comedy originates and also is the ultimate connecting theme between the two movies.
Interestingly, this movie locks itself into the comparison with its predecessor with the other subtle themes and situations in the movie. Sexual discovery, the coming up of nerds, the protagonist’s betrayal of each other, even the encouraging authority figures are all themes that cement the comparison and contrast of these films. In the end, Booksmart is a more intelligent, yet still ridiculous, take on the globally similar themes of adolescence that make it and movies like last year’s Eighth Grade entertaining.
While almost no one will remember the director of Superbad (Greg Mottola), many will remember this movie as the debut for Olivia Wilde. Not because she did anything phenomenal in the direction of the movie but for the fact that in her debut she took unoriginal material and created a film that was genuinely female in its construction but fresh, relevant, unifying and relatable to all.
Rated R for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking – all involving teens, Booksmart is an intentionally elevated story that feels familiar ultimately yet tries to cut its own swath. The movie clearly shows that being well rounded should now be the goal and that high school is an experimental journey rather than a rigid march. It’s not the fall-out-of-your-seat funny that Superbad was but you will laugh and feel more intelligent when you are done.