Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)

What's it about? On the the eve of their high school graduation, hard-working overachievers Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) discover that their less committed student peers have nonetheless also gained acceptance to their chosen universities. Aghast that they may have missed a trick by working hard and not playing enough, the pair set out to make amends by partying hard for one night at least.


Is it any good? Oh yes. Funny, warm and, yes, smart. It helps that it is blessed with two energetic and immensely likeable performances from Feldstein and Dever, utterly convincing as teenage best friends finding their way in the world. Even as events around them are exaggerated for comic effect, the chemistry between the lead duo feels real and gives the film a palpable emotional center. Around them, an equally likeable cast of supporting characters provide laughs, oddball diversions and drama as the riotous night barrels from one set-piece to another. And it is here that Wilde's direction and her team of writers have really freshened up the usual high-school movie tropes. There is booze, drugs, unrequited love, embarrassment, bonding and so on, but it all fizzes with an energy that makes it feel modern, not least because the action is smartly set to a stonkingly good soundtrack of hip-hop tunes and old school classics. And how nice to see female sexual desires so frankly discussed, but not as titillation for the male characters or, crucially, to shame the female characters. Okay, so the whole thing is clearly artifice - no-one's secondary school education is really this exciting, chaotic or fun (or maybe I just missed out?). But who cares when it is as wildly entertaining as this?

Anything else I should know? This is Wilde's debut directorial feature and she has received much praise for her accomplished end-product. Unsurprisingly, she's a big fan of the 80s high-school movie genre, but also interesting to see her cite Training Day, the Denzel Washington buddy cop-movie, as an inspiration.She has spoken eloquently about her experiences making the film - see an example here. Sadly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, Booksmart hasn't set the box-office alight, but as word-of-mouth builds, don't be surprised to see this gain similar cult appeal as Mean Girls, American Pie and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And I'm not even joking?

What does the Fonz think? See it, or you'll be left with a serious case of FOMO.






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