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“Booksmart” ushers in a new generation for the high school coming-of-age comedy

The cast of "Booksmart" at South by Southwest earlier this year.

On the last day of high school, overachiever Molly (Beanie Feldstein) comes to the earth-shattering realization that it’s possible to excel in school and party. She and her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) then spend the next hour and a half of the film trying to cram four years of partying into one night, but things don’t quite go according to plan. This is the premise of “Booksmart,” actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut that is a heartwarming tale of friendship as well as an impressive comedy. 

“We were both so in awe of two brilliant, unapologetic girls that are so obsessed with each other and devoted to each other, at the center of a huge, fun comedy,” Feldstein said in an interview with The Eagle. “I’ve never read anything like that before.” 

Even though “Booksmart” is Wilde’s first time directing a film, the comedy feels far from a rookie first picture. 

“I got such a clear understanding of what [Wilde] wanted for this movie,” Dever said. “The first thing she said to me was, ‘high school is war and this movie is like training day.’” 

Despite being compared to some of the quintessential movies about high school, “Booksmart” feels surprisingly fresh. It creates its own niche in the teen movie criterion with characters who feel like familiar people, not just one-dimensional punchlines, and situations that are outlandish but seemingly plausible under the right circumstances. It doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel, but it feels original under the direction of Wilde.  

Dever and Feldstein said that the film seems effortless because of Wilde’s direction and the work of screenwriter Katie Silberman.

“We did all this preparation and she asked us to be fully memorized for every single scene,” Feldstein said. “By the time we got there, we could just let loose because we did all the preparation beforehand.”

The two lead actresses also lived together during shooting to prepare for their roles. Moving in together while filming helped to build their chemistry and develop the relationship.

“[Molly and Amy] have spent the last 12 years together, so there’s no way we would’ve been able to do that unless we doubled down and lived together,” said Dever.  “It was such an amazing experience and we realized we pretty much agreed to live with each other within 15 minutes of meeting each other.” 

It’s the bond between these two characters that really sets “Booksmart” apart from some of the other comparable teen movies. These characters only have each other, and the love they have for one another is apparent from the beginning of the film. It’s Molly and Amy against the world as they spend most of the movie aggressively complementing each other and hyping each other up.

“This kind of script doesn’t come around that often, a script where I would get to be funny but also be in a story about female friendship and how strong that bond can be, that’s what really attracted me,” said Dever.

The cast is made up of both comedy veterans such as Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte, with relative newcomers like Billie Lourd, who steals the scene as Gigi, an uncontrollable partier.

Ultimately, the movie is about two girls who were blinded by their goals in an effort to succeed,  something the actresses can relate to. 

“When you’re young and in this industry and you’re that passionate about it, you do put blinders on,” Feldstein said. “When you’re actually getting to do your dream job, all you want to do is to do it well.” 

“Booksmart” proves that even overachievers have something to learn. Meticulously balancing comedy with heartfelt interactions, this movie has more emotional substance than some of its predecessors. “Booksmart” is sure to become a cult-classic for Generation Z. 

“Booksmart” will be released in theaters on Friday, May 24.

mgoodman@theeagleonline.com


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