Booksmart - more Richard Linklater than Judd Apatow and that is a good thing

Silverscreen: Movie Reviews

Amy and Molly are two girls entering the final days of school before heading to college. They have worked hard for years and a bit smug about getting their respective courses in top universities.

However, when they realise that their fellow students who partied and had a great time all through high school, not only did they also get good grades but got into the same great universities. They are sick with this revelation and vow to spend at least one night partying.

I have to say this movie quite surprised me. The trailer is slightly misleading. It is more Richard Linklater than Judd Apatow and that is a good thing.

The two girls are played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. I did not know much about Dever but she is wonderful. Funny and understated she could play the Molly Ringwald, Breakfast Club princess role but despite being quiet she does like to have fun and has some jokes. She feels like an actual human being rather than just a soft timid damsel. Feldstein is the sister of Jonah Hill and I feel that comparison haunts her here slightly. She almost stole the show in Ladybird and is currently on TV in the hilarious What We Do in the Shadows.

This is a genuinely star making performance from her. It does help to have such a great script but she still makes the character. Again like Dever's, it is easy to make the character a cliche, but what I was impressed with was that Molly does not mind appearing slightly unlikeable and obnoxious. We obviously love our protagonists but they are not without flaws.

A bit like Superbad, the two leads have great chemistry. They apparently lived together during the making of the film and it shows.

Stealing the movie though is Billy Lorde. Daughter of the late Carrie Fisher, she plays a hyper cool human train wreck Gigi. She is dressed at all times like she’s on her way to Burning Man and almost in a tribute to her mum she seems like she is from another planet. Popping up all over the movie, the scenes she is in are where the movie really made me laugh. Several other great performances from people like Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis, and Will Forte really do tie the movie together.

While the comparisons to films like Superbad and Fast Times in Ridgmount High are fair but this is a far better film. Hard to believe it is a debut feature film here from Olivia Wilde. She proves here she is much more than a competent director, usually comedies with the exception maybe of Anchorman's Adam McCay and 21 Jump Street's Lord and Miller, the direction is unremarkable.

The directors do their jobs, which is to get the jokes on screen, Wilde does not just service the script she elevates it. One scene when the girls are tripping on drugs the film turns momentarily to stop motion animation. Another brilliant long underwater shot which is equal parts breathtaking and heart-breaking, is as good as anything you’d see from a top tier director like a Iñárritu or a Nolan. Wilde adds to the pathos and gives the film a real personality.

This really is one of the better movies I have seen this year and is one that deserves to be seen. It unfortunately is bombing in the box office and suffers from a terrible release date. Surely a September back to school release would have the right move? It may look like a teenager’s movie but it is one for everyone to enjoy as long as you do not mind the occasional gross joke and bad language.


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