Review by Mr. Will Wong
The Coming-of-Age genre is a crowded one but Booksmart, the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, offers a fresh spin that feels now and fun.
The Comedy penned by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman centers on childhood best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on the eve of their high school graduation. Molly is about to enter Harvard, while Amy embarks on a trip to Botswana for the summer before beginning her studies at Columbia. They realize that they never had a chance to rebel and let loose at all on their paths to academic success. Molly convinces Amy to join her on their last hurrah before college and partying with the cool kids. One problem, they weren’t invited and make it a mission to find the party.
What on paper appears to be a story told many times before is anything but with Booksmart. While much of the first two halves focus on getting to the destination and the several hurdles Molly and Amy face getting there, everything comes together perfectly as we see their friendship face the toughest challenge yet in their otherwise inseparable bond. Each young woman is forced to confront themselves at this party, facing some of the things that have held them back throughout their high school years. Unresolved issues between the Molly and Amy blow-up in a big way, perhaps jeopardizing graduation day and their friendship.
Wilde manages to capture beautifully the bittersweet essence of saying goodbye to adolescence and is blessed with a remarkable Cast. Feldstein and Dever are outstanding on their own and together, one lifting the other when they need a boost. Dever negotiates Amy’s path to courage and sexual awakening delicately, while Feldstein grows into humility with grace. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better on-screen duo this year at the Movies.
Booksmart tackles head-on Hollywood’s diversity issue, proving under-represented Filmmakers, Writers and Actors have something to say and even more so, an audience to listen.
eOne Films release BOOKSMART Friday, May 24, 2019.