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"Booksmart" Movie Review

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Booksmart

Booksmart

Easy A. The DUFF. The Edge of Seventeen. The list of criminally underrated, largely ignored, flat-out excellent teen coming-of-age movies grows longer every year. And now we can add the fantastic Bookmart. (Yes, it’s somehow possible that Booksmart gets the box office attention it deserves, but as it comes at the start of the always-crowded summer movie season, I wouldn’t put down any money on it.)

You could very easily label Booksmart as Superbad for the two-x-chromosome set (particularly as it stars Jonah Hill’s kid sister Beanie Feldstein), but no. Greg Mottola’s 2007 R-rated comedy was little more than this generation’s Porky’s—hilarious and fun, sure, but about as filling as a wafer-thin mint. Booksmart ups the ante by seeing Superbad’s raunch and then raising the quality-film bar a notch or three, shattering stereotypes, zigging when it should zag, and generally giving us everything we didn’t know we want in a movie we’ve seen a hundred times before.

Feldstein stars as Molly, an overachieving Yale-bound senior who discovers on the last day of high school that her non-nerdy, party-animal classmates are also headed for very green pastures, despite actually enjoying themselves in high school along the way. Determined to make up for four years of lost time, Molly convinces best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) to come along for the ride as she tracks down the big year-end blowout party.

Populated with some of the most memorable (and—hallelujah!—three-dimensional) characters to walk a fictional high school halls since perhaps Freaks and Geeks, Booksmart gives us a refreshing and honest world where the hot girls aren’t always bitches, the jocks aren’t always stupid, and the dorks aren’t always shunned. The script by Katie Silberman (Isn’t It Romantic), Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me), and two others, is as smart as it is spot-on hilarious, somehow taking a desolate boat party, a modern dance dream-interlude, and Alanis karaoke and smushing it (and much, much more) into the best teen comedy this side of Lady Bird.

Olivia Wilde, making her feature film directorial debut, absolutely crushes it, never seeming to try too hard, instead content to let the actors and the material win the day. That’s not to say there aren’t several times where she gets to make Booksmart her own (see the aforementioned modern dance dream-interlude), but the film never has what feels like a “Hey, look at me!” moment.

With glorified cameos from Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (not to mention a quietly hilarious turn by Jessica WIlliams) and a show-stealing performance from Billie Lourd, Booksmart has a little something for everyone, particularly anyone who appreciates damn good movies that are as fresh and clever as a high school day is long.

Rating

4.5/5 stars

'Booksmart' trailer