I’m a sucker for a coming of age story. Especially one that delivers on marvellous facial expressions, queer content and humorous writing. Though I’m unsure whether or not to pay attention to the fact too that there’s been quite a few good films and TV series I’ve watched recently that have Will Ferrell as a producer. Perhaps that’s just a coincidence…
Booksmart sees academic overachievers Molly and Amy have their opinions turned upside down when on the eve of their high school graduation. Suddenly they realise that they may have missed out on many ‘special’ moments of their teenage years in favour of academic pursuits. While the best friends have been nose-deep in homework, many of their partying classmates have also been accepted into Ivy colleges for academic success or on sporting scholarships (except for that one guy who’s skipping straight to a six-figure salary at Google).
What follows is a wild night for Amy and Molly as they try to jam pack all their crazy fun into a few hours. It’s a simple enough idea with a typical narrative structure but done in such a fun way. Amy and Molly decide to go to the biggest party (hosted by the school’s vice president) of the year, but after realising that they don’t know where it is, they have to ask their classmates. However, because they never talked to anyone outside of academia, they are just ignored. Each scenario that follows is fun to watch and fully develops the world and characters in the film.
Molly and Amy are led along a kind of goose chase as they try to find the party location – ending up moving between multiple different parties held by a range of classmates and navigating strange encounters even with staff members from their high school. They all come together though in the end to Nick’s party, and then also their graduation. I think how well-rounded the characters are is great for the actors – with great facial expressions from Beanie playing Molly, and the rest developing their characters during the film. The characters reactions too are even relatable – with some very jerky behaviour in school, but also exciting, even fickle, reactions to see Molly and Amy coming out for a party. As Molly and Amy spend more time with each character too, they learn that they all have their own flaws but also have their hopes for the future and reflections upon high school.
Booksmart doesn’t shy away from having diversity in the film too. Within the cast there is a range of ethnical backgrounds, and sexuality is brought to the forefront of the film with Amy’s character. I thought that the way sexuality was shown in the film was also pretty relatable with Amy struggling to find out whether or not her crush likes girls and with how Molly made scissoring jokes to Amy. What are friends for if not to embarrass you! I appreciated how Amy’s parents are presented as very religious but also accepting and very loving towards their daughter.
Also, side note, put Lizzo into anything and it becomes ten times better. And this movie was right up my ally when it comes to humour.
The twists were nice too in the film with the climax being enough of a surprise to be interesting, but not far-fetched either. The ending then had an undertone of bitter-sweetness with the girls going to part ways for the year, as people do after high school. But things look very promising that Amy and Molly will stay friends for long after their graduation. I liked the close-knit friendship Amy and Molly had – with compliments, affection and yet also varying opinions that can cause conflict.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, provides its audience with an extremely fun viewing and some insightful moments too in this original coming of age story.