Watching Booksmart means having to deal with the fact that it might as well take place in a parallel universe. On the eve of their graduation, high schoolers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) realize that their reason for keeping noses to the grindstone and having precisely no fun in school—the need to get into A Good College—hasn’t paid off. They’ve gotten into the hard-to-get-into schools, sure, but so have the partying peers they’d previously written off as slackers. Determined to loosen up, the two embark on a one-night-only odyssey in hopes of making up for lost time.
Although this premise is built around Booksmart’s conscious rejection of high school clichés, eschewing cliques and revealing layers to even the most familiar archetypes in the interest of portraying a more blended and inclusive place among kids these days, it also teeters into fantasy. It is, frankly, a film where a lot of rich kids reveal they didn’t have to work very hard and where the protagonists take that at face value. The disconnect is extremely apparent as the kids walk around this huge boat or these really nice houses, though Booksmart takes on enough of a silly, almost feverish quality to let the complaint mostly slide into the background. It feels fantastical even when it’s not really written to be, aided by some colorful lighting and particularly one fantastic scene underwater where Amy weaves between the legs of various unseen characters.
Director Olivia Wilde’s background in acting shines through in the characters’ easy chemistry, as well as the way they’re actually shot to share the frame when they interact. You believe their friendship as they get into all manner of outlandish situations, and although the film has drawn frequent comparisons to something like 2007’s Superbad, it helps that Wilde films the thing like a movie instead of an improv reel. The editing feels purposeful, and a lot of the camera angles she finds are just funny to look at particularly for Feldstein, who projects a hilarious air of composure even in the face of absurdity. There’s a dream sequence where they turn into stop-motion Barbie dolls. Overall Rating: B+« Back to Blog