Booksmart (2019) is a coming of age comedy and is the first feature-length film directed by Olivia Wilde. Following Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on their last day of high school before graduation, they plan to fit four years of high school parties into one glorious night before they separate for the summer. As most school parties though, things do not go as they initially plan.
In terms of a coming of age story, this one felt fresh and charming in it’s presentation. To have a story like this take a huge majority of the film set in the space of 24 hours was a great choice, as I found it not only made the story feel important, but also developing a connection with both Molly and Amy. It felt like we were with them on the entire night, through the highs and lows, and yet I also got that long-term transition that they were also having to go through in their lives.
I do not think I have ever said this about a comedy to date, but the best jokes in this film are when they go sexual. Whether this is because I believed the humour fully in those moments or because they were a big part of the story for the characters, they just seemed to land most of the time. Running gags or longer singular moments, a lot of the jokes felt natural and therefore just worked in this film.
The acting in this film throughout is great, and it is the talent on screen that sells a lot of the humour. All of the students actually seem like high school students, even if they are exaggerated, which I am really pleased about. The highlights of this film for me though are Kaitlyn Dever, whose character goes through the most development, and Billie Lourd who is a complete scene stealer as Gigi. Whenever she appears on screen, you know you are witnessing something special.
This film comes in at 105 minutes, and the pacing of it is spot on. Despite the film taking place in such a small amount of time, the film never dragged on and each scene moved on as quickly as it needed to. Whilst I did not care for every scene and some of the film felt like filler just to have some character development, it never felt too long or boring and this is down to the tight screenwriting behind the scenes.
I did have my issues with the film though. In general, I did not like the humour that came about with the students. Whilst I understand the choice, the students all felt a bit too cliché and stereotypical for a film that feels so fresh and current. All the jokes about the musical kids to the stereotyping of the jocks and the nerds feels outdated and overdone at this point, and almost feels like the behaviours of people starting school, not leaving it.
I was also not a fan of how they handled the music in this film. With every new character or big moment, it felt like they wanted to make a statement by having some very loud music play over it to try and set the tone. This just got annoying and took me out of those moments. There is one instant near the end of the film where two characters are in a situation and the music comes in, making us not be able to hear what they are saying. This took the emotion out of that moment, and this was just one stylistic choice that did not work for me.
Everybody has been cheering this film on and hoping for it’s success as an indie coming of age story, and it deserves the love that other people are giving it. It does not match some of the other coming of age stories we have had even in the past five years for me, but as a first time directing a feature film, Olivia Wilde has a success on her hand. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with in the future.
Have you had the chance to see Booksmart yet? What did you make of it? Comment down below and we can have a conversation.