Coming-of-age films have been a staple in Hollywood for decades, with classics such as American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and The Breakfast Club. More recently, we have been treated to movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Moonlight, and Eighth Grade, some of the best of coming-of-age flicks ever to hit the big screen with. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, is an addition into the genre and while it adheres to many of the tropes set by its coming-of-age predecessors, it still has pure emotion and originality that sets it apart from the rest.
Booksmart tells the story of two high school seniors and best friends, Amy and Molly, on their last day of school. The two have dedicated their past four years to studying and working hard, with the goal of getting into great colleges. They soon find out that the kids in their high school who partied every weekend got into good colleges as well, and decide to let loose and get into the biggest party in town on the night before their graduation.
With a setup that seemingly mimics the plot of Superbad, one may think that it would simply be the same movie only with girls in the leading roles. However, the plot twists coupled with the authentic performances provided by Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, and Beanie Feldstein as Molly, help to make this film something special.
I found the movie starts off somewhat slow, but really hits its stride in the middle, growing both in laughs and sentiment as the film progresses. Booksmart ultimately delivers a thrilling and enjoyable narrative, while addressing feelings of anxiety caused by leaving high school and your best friends behind.
I found that the strongest aspect of the film was the acting performances. The actors appeared to genuinely enjoy working together and the relationships left an impression of authenticity. The actors’ chemistry was extremely successful, which helped to make the story and the character interactions all the more believable. My personal favorite were the many gems amongst the supporting cast, with hilarious performances provided by Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Billie Lourd, and Will Forte.
Another quality of the movie I really appreciated was the impressive direction from Olivia Wilde accentuated the performance of the actors. The film is shot in a way that works to position the viewer with the main characters. Wilde’s direction brings about strong emotions that feel raw, primarily due to the nature of the shot; these included an abundance of long takes, following shots, and close-ups.
Despite my overall positive impression of the film, one of the faults I found was that a good number of the jokes simply did not land. I never expect any comedy to consistently succeed on every punchline, but there were some notable instances silence replaced moments that should’ve been filled with laughter. This is not to say that the movie was lacking in humor, but just that there were some missed comedic opportunities.
The coming of age genre is one of my favorites. There are laughs, there are tears, and more often than not, outrageous antics. Booksmart may not appear to be wildly original on the surface, but the fresh direction of Olivia Wilde and the sincere performances by the cast help to make this movie a strong entry into the genre. This film takes a seemingly formulaic story and spins it on its head enough to make it into something that is both unique and enjoyable. Everything considered, Booksmart is a great movie to watch with your friends and is definitely a solid way to spend a weekend night.
Cover Photo: IMDB