SHOULD I SEE IT?
A spirited coming-of-age movie.
Booksmart is a non-stop, hilarious, new, and fresh comedy about teen life.
Though it resembles other movies in terms of storyline, director Olivia Wilde makes Booksmart feel like something brand new we really haven’t seen before.
For those curious about younger kids watching this, be aware that Booksmart more than earns its R rating, with a lot of swearing and adult-themed content.
As a result, may prove to be to raunchy overall for some viewers (although movies with men in the leading roles have been given a pass for doing more…)
The breakneck speed of the film, the effort to cram so many events into one night (in storyline) may make the themes the movie addresses hollow and empty. Not our take, but that’s a takeaway which is out in the world.
With the arrival of Booksmart, which opens wide in theaters with a near-perfect Tomatometer, universal acclaim, and some feeling like it is among the best films of 2019, we here at Should I See It decided to take a different approach when reviewing this highly-anticipated film.
Both staff writer Andie Pitts, a high school graduate herself in about three weeks’ time, and editor Mike Ward had a chance to see the movie, prior to its release. When we compared notes, we thought, let’s both review the film and see how the soon-to-be graduate and the 40-something father of two feel about Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut.
Booksmart tells the story of two girls, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) who realize that though they are both headed to Ivy League schools in the fall after graduation, they have not “experienced” or “enjoyed” the social aspects of high school. With graduation happening the following day, and with the realization that fellow students they thought didn’t care about school, have achieved similar results on testing and college admissions, Molly and Amy decide to live out four years of high school fun in one night, heading to a graduation bash thrown by the popular Nick (Mason Gooding).
What follows is a careening, fast-paced series of adventures where Molly and Amy learn more about themselves, their peers, but also that no matter how hard you try - life keeps propelling you forward.
MIKE - So Andie, let’s discuss Booksmart. We both saw it. It won rave reviews at South By Southwest, and is already being called one of the greatest teen movies of all time.
ANDIE - Yes! Being a senior in high school, I can honestly say this is one of the most refreshing teen movies I have seen.
MIKE - So not being a senior in high school, I can agree (if my age permits me to). Honestly, I found so much to love about this, I had to check with younger folks around me and make sure I was laughing at all the right places.
ANDIE - I find that funny, because I had adults look over to me to see if I got the humor in the film. My question for you Mike is, being an adult in this generation, how did this movie give you insight into teen life?
MIKE: WAIT! Before I answer that - tell me I wasn’t That Guy - staring at 18-24 year olds to make sure I was hip. I really don’t want to be that guy. Have I become that person. (mutters to self)
ANDIE - Ha! I mean, I got a lot of looks during the movie and many adults had some questions for me after the film. Hopefully you weren't making your staring too obvious...
MIKE - Nevermind all of that. Best I just answer your question now!
For me, the best teen movies do not patronize their audience, no matter what age. And I feel like we are in a “boom period” for great teen films, that really respect the challenges of growing up and the world teens find themselves in nowadays. Off the top of my head, these tend to be more dramatic comedies - Eighth Grade, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Edge of Seventeen all come to mind, but, for teen movies which strike a more comedic tone, Lady Bird and Booksmart, for all its over-the-top, manic comedic energy, meets that mark.
ANDIE - I agree! What really made Booksmart an outstanding movie for me, was the fact that everything that happened in the movie were things I have seen or experienced in high school (to some extent) - from the parties, the use of social media, and even the “teen lingo.” And of course this film has the “Hollywood filter” on it so things are exaggerated for entertainment. But, when you look at it and the messages it sends, it is one of the more relatable teen films I have seen apart from Eighth Grade.
MIKE - Booksmart is led by two outstanding, breakout performances from Feldstein and Dever, as Molly and Amy, respectively. Molly is a go-getter, who has spent all of her time focused on academics and is getting into Yale. Amy, is a quieter and willing sidekick to Molly’s demanding personality, yet just as academically driven, as she is getting into Columbia University.
There’s a great scene early on where Molly realizes that the kids she thought were slacking off and screwing around, were also getting into schools just as prestigious as she did.
I loved that moment.
ANDIE - That is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. You would be surprised maybe to know that kids who do party and get crazy also carry that mentality into their schoolwork. And there are many kids who party and study and get into amazing colleges. The entire film has the message of “do not judge a book by its cover” and that is very true in the high school world. You honestly do not know a person until you see them outside of school, and the movie did a really good job about making that clear.
MIKE - Director Olivia Wilde, in what I hope you agree is one impressive directorial debut, decides to take an entire four years of high school experiences and cram them into one night. How did that work for you?
ANDIE - Olivia Wilde has never failed to impress me before, and this movie only made me love her more. As for cramming four years of high school into one night, I can almost relate to that too. With graduation coming up, I’ll be closing a major chapter in my life and saying goodbye to my peers that I have known my entire life. I will soon be starting - “adulthood” - which is really a daunting thought.
But I often have had that thought - “Did I really live my high school years?” And then, I can get an overwhelming sense to, also, cram experiences into the short time I have left. But as far as Booksmart goes, I think it is something many teens face now; that this high school bubble we have been living in is going to pop and everything is going to change.
MIKE - Among all the wild scenes and crazy antics on display, I still laugh when I think of Gigi (a movie-stealing performance by Billie Lourd). Booksmart takes all of these characters we have seen in numerous other teen films and gives them their own scenes and moments. We get to know pretty much everyone we spend time with in the movie. That writing, that time spent investing in the characters, makes those things you talk about - adulthood, leaving behind people you’ve known your entire life, closing chapters and new beginnings - those moments really resonate. Booksmart may be a breakneck comedy, but it also has a huge heart, which I found really meaningful.
ANDIE - Every character introduced was used throughout the film, no random characters. Which for me, made the movie feel more personal. The film itself feels like a rollercoaster ride. Fast and intense, Booksmart can make your stomach drop sometimes. Nevertheless, it is jocular and entertaining.
MIKE - So, parents who want to send their younger teens to this, should be aware that this definitely earns its R rating. Though hilarious, smart, and with jokes coming a mile-a-minute, did it catch you off-guard at all? There are definitely some “watch between your hands” moments that are absolutely cringe-worthy.
ANDIE - There were scenes that were definitely on the raunchier side, this is true. The movie has what I would describe, sophisticated jokes for teens. It has the perfect amount of edginess and wittiness that will keep teens engaged. There were moments that I didn't see coming, and that might just be the beauty in the film.
MIKE - So, is there anything we were disappointed with? I think it’s safe to say we are big fans of Booksmart.
ANDIE - I think we can agree that Booksmart is a must see!
MIKE - Alright, the part critics dislike doing the most. The star rating. Where do you fall?
ANDIE - I think it is a “4-out-of-5 stars” movie for me.
MIKE - I might nudge a half-star higher. I think this might be the most fun I have had at a movie this year. Thank you Andie! By the way, you graduate in like three weeks!
ANDIE- Thank you for the reminder Mike! Time to live my last high school days to the fullest!
CAST & CREW
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Mason Gooding, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Victoria Ruesga, Diana Silvers, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Mike O’Brien.
Director: Olivia Wilde
Written by: Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Annapurna Pictures/United Artists Releasing