*Only Not as Funny, But Still Surprisingly Effective

Movie Review: Booksmart

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R |

Director: Olivia Wilde

by Jason Koenigsberg

The headline for this article kind of says it all. Booksmart is not bad, but it’s not Superbad (2007) which it is trying to be. It ends up being a less funny but very poignant update of Superbad and that is not an easy thing to accomplish. Especially considering it was directed by Olivia Wilde, an actress making her feature directorial debut and she shows a lot of skill, as well as confidence and promise. 

The opening shot is the back of a girl, (Molly, the main character) as she listens to a woman’s voice giving inspirational advice. We see images of important women in politics and then a close up of our main characters face. Then it jumps right to some profanity for shock laughs which might have been funny if it had not been ruined in the red band trailers for the film. The similarities between Booksmart and Superbad are abundant and obvious. Stating them now would be wise to avoid redundancies later on. They both take place on the last day of high school and involve seniors trying to get to a party with the cool kids. They both involve a pair of best friends that are misfits but easy to relate to and the strains that their friendship goes through. They both want to hook up with people at the party where their friendship is tested, one friend is more extroverted the other more introverted and both films involve the introvert revealing a big secret they were keeping from their best friend about their college decision that could alter their friendship.

Now that that is out of the way, Booksmart works surprisingly well considering it is the equivalent of the female Ghostbusters version of that film because even though it is not funnier than Superbad, it is so well directed, edited, and acted that throughout the entire second hour it really turns into its own film and a strong coming of age movie. It updates Superbad and feminizes it in a way that makes it a smart comedy of its decade. 

The two main actresses always feel natural and come across as real people even when the dialogue hinders that because it is going for a traditional comedic formula. A lot of the early blatant jokes fall flat but there are clever moments and dialogue that work throughout. Booksmart also has subtle details about high school class structure and how students socioeconomic status impacts their place on the social hierarchy. These are moments where Olivia Wilde shines as a director overcoming the flaws of the screenplay and making this movie more than just a basic teen party comedy retread. Also, her use of music choices and the way the music is edited with the cinematography is very well done. She selects great songs for the right moments as well making a lot of the edits feel seamless and intoxicating. One would certainly hope that this carries over into her next film. She shows so much promise with her debut it is exciting to think about her sophomore film. There is a beautifully shot argument between the two best friends at a party that not only serves as a brilliant revealing moment for these two main characters but also captures teenage society and the teenage mentality of 2019. The perfect example of showing how Booksmart updates the teen-party subgenre. 

This movie ultimately is a story about sisterhood and the strong bond of friendship we form in high school before going off to college. Throughout Booksmart the audience will be able to tell it was written and directed by women with subtle emotional cues through lines in the script, ways that it was shot and how it centers on the women and their struggles, never the men and their viewpoint of the women. Earlier this month I complained about the movie Long Shot and how that was just a liberal male fantasy about a beautiful woman falling for an unconventional looking man and how they would never make a movie about the opposite. Well with Booksmart I guess I got what I asked for. 



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