The coming-of-age story has been seen on the big screen countless times, with many following white male characters. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart” has a fresh, positive take on the trope that includes plenty of surprises, laughs and diversity.
The story follows two high school overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who realize before graduation they may have missed out on any special teenage memories during their time in high school. The two girls then decide to make up for it by setting out to have one last night full of partying and adventure that becomes chaotic very quickly.
The film is phenomenal. If I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t believe this is Wilde’s first project. It’s well-paced, the characters are great, the humor feels new — and it tackles diversity like no other. It feels like the modern “Superbad,” but better.
The first thing you notice is the strength of the relationship between the two leads. Dever and Feldstein’s chemistry is palpable as the two go in and out of different situations that test them while also showing how close the friends truly are. Their back and forth banter is hilarious, and their unrelenting support of each other is one of the most wholesome things I’ve seen in a movie.
That’s not to take away from the supporting characters though. The cast features a multitude of different personalities that never feel one-dimensional. There were some truly electric performances out of some of the side characters that add to the dynamic of the movie and everything it takes you through.
The main relationship holds the humor in the movie together. While the different situations are funny in their own ways, how the two react to everything thrown at them enhances it even more. It’s also not the same tropes you always get, much of the situations or jokes in the movie feel new and not like something that you’ve seen before in other movies. There were quite a few times where I was completely caught off guard, but that made me appreciate it even more. That freshness just makes it all that more funny.
It doesn’t go over-the-top though. While many comedies tend to fall apart when it comes to the actual story and the more serious aspects of the movie, “Booksmart” keeps from doing that. The character arcs feel satisfying and focused while also not losing its comedic side.
The movie is polished. Some of the shots are absolutely gorgeous, and the pacing and editing keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire time. I don’t think there was a single boring point in the movie. It's the perfect balance of quick bursts of action and humor before giving you just enough breathing room to leave you wanting more.
What truly makes “Booksmart” a beautiful movie is how inclusive it is. Many films try to add in diversity because, obviously, diversity is good. The problem with that is sometimes it feels unnatural how the different characters are shoehorned in and it often leads to subpar characters that don’t actually provide real representation. In other cases, they center the plot on how being a woman and/or being queer is something to pity, rather than something to celebrate.
“Booksmart” manages to go beyond all of that and flesh out these characters. The movie feels like it’s made with strong, confident women and LGBTQ+ people in mind. There wasn’t any patronization because they were girls or because Amy is gay, they make sure to show you it’s normal and that being gay doesn’t significantly change her character or the storyline. It feels intimate and it feels real.
“Booksmart” is a must-watch that deserves all the praise it is receiving. It’s chaotic, it’s hilarious, it’s heartwarming, and it’s powerful. It’s one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen. Take the opportunity to grab some friends and go see this gem in theaters, it’s beyond worth it.
“Booksmart” releases nationwide on May 24.