Booksmart is tearing up the teen film rule book
Freshness meets realness: Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut flips the high-school narrative on its head.
Booksmart, a “coming-of-age story for a new generation”, is an unfiltered portrayal of life as a teenager in 2019. Filled to the brim with embarrassing moments and poor choices, drenched in both realness and freshness, it tears up the “teen film” rulebook. Gone are the outdated Nerd, Jock and Regina George stereotypes; welcomed in are a fresh batch of relatable schoolkids – ones you most probably went to school with and whose dads aren’t the inventors of toaster strudel.
As the directorial debut of the multi-faceted Olivia Wilde, whose acting portfolio stretches from Broadway to Hollywood, the movie prides itself on being made by women for women – Booksmart is directed, written and toplined by women. Beyond that, the cast is supported by talented newcomers Molly Gordon (Life of the Party), Billie Lourd (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet), all delivering standout performances throughout.
The film centres on the relationship between best friends Amy and Molly, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. They’re studious Ivy League hopefuls, shunners of anything fun lest it clouds their chances of success. Stiff-upper-lipped and snobby towards their rebellious peers, the BFF’s world slides to a halt when Molly realises that the classmates she’s assiduously looked down upon have had the best of both worlds: partying hard while bagging the grades to get them into Yale, Harvard and even a job as a coder at Google. So, when the penny drops that the students they once disdained had their alco-cake and ate it too, Amy and Molly go on a mission to see out their last school night in style.
This means crashing a house party everyone will be at. Unsurprisingly, their journey there doesn’t go smoothly. Multiple laugh-out-loud moments ensue, including a hugely embarrassing porn-watching incident in front of headteacher, a not-wholly-successful first sexual encounter, an accidental ayahuasca trip and a pool-party skinny-dip gone wrong – all brilliantly tied together with crucial life lessons and standout performances throughout.
Booksmart classily, savvily and hilariously flips on its head the well-worn high-school narrative. It’s a refreshingly honest glimpse into teen education, one that doesn’t entirely rely on highly unrealistic scenarios, bar maybe a few (hilarious) slapstick moments. Nor is the backbone of the film the tired old “ugly duckling becomes a swan” moment. The lead actors carry all this with confident aplomb, with Feldstein and Dever delivering two star-making turns that amplify the comedy – and the emotional moments – even further.
Booksmart is nostalgic without relying on nostalgia. It’s a bold new spin on the teen flick, the dialogue full of spill-your-popcorn zingers, and already feels like a modern classic. Plus, if you still need convincing, it’s scored 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. Go see, now.