Whether it likes it or not, Booksmart is Superbad for a new generation.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Few movies this year will seem as worldly as Booksmart, the directorial debut by Olivia Wilde. It’s a raunchy teen comedy that could double as a crash course on contemporary social politics. It is female-led. One of its main characters is gay. There are interracial flings and gender-neutral skateboarders. I half expected Laverne Cox to barge in at some point. It is also piloted by one of the most electric, lovable lead pairings in a long while. This is Superbad 2.0, told by women, about women, retrofitted for 2019.
The movie begins with the end of high school. The hallways are boisterous and messy and all the cool kids have already planned their respective graduation parties. Best friends, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), have never partied. They have played it safe, thought about their futures and aced every exam (when Amy proudly contests their innocence by mentioning their fake IDs, Molly retorts “they were college IDs to get into their 24-hour library!”).
Molly’s been accepted to Yale, which, naturally, is big news. So you can imagine her consternation when she discovers that all her beer-chugging, sexually ravenous classmates have also been accepted to prestigious colleges across the country. How did this happen? If everyone else fooled around and still succeeded academically, why did she spend the last few years studying her ass off like a schmuck? Her plan? Make up for lost time by partying the night away with her crush Nick (Mason Gooding), where maybe, just maybe he might finally notice her.
Booksmart is more concerned with style and forward momentum than with scribbling out the finer details of teenage life. Party scenes are generic. Plot points are broad. Amy and Molly spend the majority of their evening hopping from party to party, trying desperately to reach Nick’s house (neither knows his address). Don’t you think that by the second or third party the night would be over? I mean, how many hours are there? But never mind. Because Amy and Molly are in every scene and they work so well together, logic is easily forgotten.
I just wish the movie had tried a little harder to explore these two complex, intelligent, quirky girls instead of chucking them into a series of mindless gags. There’s clearly a lot more to them than hooking up and getting wasted. By the end, what exactly have they gained? Was it all simply an opportunity to get crazy? I dunno, they seemed cool enough from the start. Nothing’s wrong with loving crossword puzzles and Ken Burns documentaries. The baffling thing is, these girls know that. But I suppose teenagers care more about what others think of them than what they know of themselves. Maybe now that it’s all over, they can go back to sneaking into college libraries.
Booksmart is available in Australian cinemas from July 11
Image © Universal Pictures 2019