‘Booksmart’ Theatrical Review
There is no real argument against the fact that female students in high school have more pressure put on them to excel than their male peers. Studies show that the expectation of male students doing well is lower than that of a female student. Whatever the reason may be (race or socioeconomic status), the bar is never set as high for male students when it comes to academic achievement. As a result, girls can miss out on the full enjoyment of high school and the pressure can continue through college. Because of this expectation, female students sometimes feel as though they have to decide between social events or studying. The reason the rest of world is ahead of the United States in education is because they do not put these expectations on students. Other countries encourage their youth to follow their dreams while enjoying life. In the so-called greatest country in the world, the enjoyment of life is slipping away from its citizens almost every day. Booksmart is not just a hilarious coming of age film, but serves as an important reminder to students of this country that they need to enjoy their adolescence because it only happens once.
Director Olivia Wilde could have used two male characters and the film would have been good. By making the two main characters female, the film really shines by bringing attention to an important lesson that is not taught enough to female adolescents: You are allowed to make mistakes to become a responsible adult. Booksmart is a must see, not just for the story of its two main characters, but for the parents who place these expectations on them.
Amy (Kaitlyn Denver) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are best friends forever who made a promise at the beginning of High School to concentrate on their studies and keep away from anything that would stop them from getting top grades. If it couldn’t help them to achieve their goal to change the world, it was a waste of time. They have each held up their respective ends of the bargain and, with the last day of their senior year upon them, are on the road to achieving their goal. Amy will be attending Columbia, but first plans to volunteer in Botswana over the summer. Molly is on her way to Yale as a first step to becoming a Supreme Court Judge. They feel on top of the world and have no problem boasting to their classmates, who they assume are on career paths that will lead to taking orders at McDonald’s. But to their horror, they find their peers, who didn’t study to their level, are not only going to some of same top schools, but are already being offered jobs at companies like Google. To the girls, it is a glitch in the Matrix as Molly protests “You guys don’t even care about school.” With a new formula that you don’t just need to excel at school to succeed, the girls decide that they need to experience everything they forewent – all in one night – before crossing over to the early adulthood of college. Thus begins an adventure of trying to find the last big party and discover if they have truly missed out on everything they thought they didn’t need in high school.
What makes everything work is the chemistry between the two lead actresses. They work so well together that their story feels feels real. As a result, the comedic scenes are even more hilarious. Their relationship carries this film because they compliment each other perfectly. With Molly as the know it all valedictorian with a foul mouth, Amy is the more soft-spoken of the two, just as smart as Molly, but less assertive and tends to lean on her best friend for guidance. In school, Molly and Amy are AP students, but when it comes to figuring out a night in the social scene, their skills are definitely remedial and it makes for some great comedy that takes them to the library, a yacht, and hysterical trip on drugs.
This might be Olivia Wilde’s first venture in directing a full-feature film, but after watching Booksmart you would think she’s been at this all her life. She has created a film in which the laughter is sustained by the right type of pacing and scenes that never feel too long. The script works in making everything Molly and Amy experience not feel forced. Wilde also gets some great comedic performances by the supporting cast. SNL alums Jason Sudeikis and Jessica Williams bring the laughs we are used to seeing from them, but it is the younger cast that really shines, namely Billy Lourd as party girl Gigi. Gigi seems to show up everywhere the girls are, and each time brings a comic relief that is out of this world. Lourd’s performance is not just outrageous, but carries depth. Under the wild child, who will dance on a car, is a girl who is gentle and wanting to be liked as well as accepted. It is Lourd’s best performance to date.
Booksmart will get comparisons to other films like Superbad, and rightfully so, but what sets it apart from other movies is that there really isn’t a villain or a school bully. The adventure the girls go on doesn’t just teach them about what they missed throughout high school, but about how they have more in common the other students in their class than they realized. They don’t overcome some mean girl or school jock, but find truth in what they falsely assumed. Just as Amy and Molly have intelligence to overcompensate their insecurities, they find their peers do the same, but in a different way. It’s an important lesson for anyone to learn, and in doing so makes you a better person. Booksmart is a hilarious coming of age movie, but serves as an important tool for everyone to learn why it’s important to treat everyone the same.
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Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years.