A Love Letter to Booksmart

Dear Booksmart,

I just wanted to let you know that I think you’re pretty cool. Actually, you’re a badasss and I really enjoyed everything about you. I was first hooked from early moments when protaganists Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are on their way to the last day of school but have to break for a silent dance sesh. But it’s not really to boost their self-esteem; they already know they’re awesome.

Let’s talk about these two leads. Molly and Amy are not your typical high school girls represented in film, much alone teen genre movies. They have real bodies, they represent more than one sexual orientation, and they are deeply aware of the political and social constructs around them. Plus, they exhibit a natural and believable chemistry. I believed these actresses were indeed 18-year-olds full of both hope and trepidation for the lives unfolding in front of them.

When things get turned on their heads. We learn, along with Molly, that she’s not the only one going to an Ivy League or top college. In fact, almost all the other students around her are bound for impressive higher education institutions — the only kick being that she thought it was impossible since it never seemed like they focused much on the ‘”school” part of high school. Here we have our first expectation smashed: Molly and Amy have been so focused on succeeding in school that they’ve let their entire adolescence be only about that. Meanwhile, everyone else is just as smart or qualified as them, but just didn’t wear it on their metaphorical sleeves most of the time, if at all. I love that twist; here’s a bunch of teenagers that might appear to be slackers, but they’re not. Everyone, as you learn throughout the film, isn’t something you’d expect. They all defy the labels that teen comedies love to apply. This is 2019 afterall.

Then there’s the director, Olivia Wilde. Thanks to her (first time!) directing choices, we were treated to some cinematic moments that you wouldn’t expect from an end-of-high school comedy. First, there’s the animated doll sequence, as if something straight out of Broad City but instead it’s two young women accidentally taking drugs for the first time. And then I really loved the Molly and Nick dance sequence. I think it goes without saying that a female director just captures something more authentic in a moment of daydreaming. (What girl hasn’t been in this situation when ogling her crush from afar?). Also, this movie is raunchy. It’s refreshing to see girls’ sexuality treated equally and aptly, just as we’ve seen in so many boy-centric coming-of-age stories.

A fantastic cast rounds it out. On top of a wickedly talented group of young adults, we get Jason Sudeikas, Jessica Williams, Mike O’Brien, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte as the adults in this world. I wouldn’t want to take more time away from the younger cast, but I also wouldn’t have minded seeing more of Forte delivering food puns and enthusiastically yelling “Ling Ling!” in his reliable Will Forte way.

Cue the feels. Yes, this movie made me feel things! A great thing about being an adult watching teen movies is that you’ve lived through this, and perhaps more than any other end-of-high school movie Booksmart is the one I could relate to most; both in gender relatedness, and just overall familiarity of what these girls were going through. But who can’t relate to that out-of-body moment when you realize your crush is actually crushing on someone else? The pool scene with Amy ripped out my heart, and the long panning shot of her walking through the house party looking for her best friend took my heart, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it. Ugh!

I could go on about the soundtrack oscillating from fun and rowdy to atmospheric and moving, or the frank discussions about female masturbation, but dear reader, you just have to see it for yourself. Or if you’re like me, plan to see it again and again.


A Booksmart Fan

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