Opening November 14, 2019
Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Writing credits: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman
Principal actors: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Skyler Gisondo, Victoria Ruesga
Fresh, frank, and funny, director Olivia Wilde’s debut feature explores teens caught halfway between major chapters in their lives. With a team of female writers, the script is fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, and witty, Booksmart is smart and original with likable characters, especially the leads, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Nevertheless, it is possible that the coming-of-age market is saturated.
On the last class day before high-school graduation, tight friends Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) learn a dear lesson. Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) wants only that the seniors behave. The “cool clique” is gaga talking about the bash Nick’s (Mason Gooding) throwing that night, Alan (Austin Crute) and George (Noah Galvin) are recruiting bodies for summer theater, the 1% (Gisondo, Billie Lourd) are oblivious, and then there are the two nerdy academic achievers. In Miss Fine’s (Jessica Williams) class, Hope (Diana Silvers) slyly insults Amy, whereas Molly’s wake-up call occurs when she overhears Theo (Eduardo Franco), Tanner (Nico Hiraga), and “Triple A” (Molly Gordon) talking … about her. But, her head-on approach is abashed by facts. So, instead of dinner with Amy’s parents (Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte), it is decided they attend a graduation party. After all, they have one night to catch up with their peers if they are going to “change our stories forever.”
Production values are good: Jason McCormick, cinematography, Dan Nakamura, music, Katie Byron, production design, albeit editor Jamie Gross could have easily shaved off 10-15 minutes. Booksmart’s realistic treatment—teen attitudes toward sex, drugs, drink, etc.—is not demeaning, and its message for teenagers worthy. A youth comedy that entertains, nevertheless more interesting will be whether Wilde and her predominantly female team graduate as well. 102 minutes (Marinell H.)