I haven’t laughed this hard or this consistently at a comedy in a very long time. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a mercilessly funny, ultra fast moving and pleasantly charming little film that maybe does have some visible first-time-director scars but who cares? It’s a film I had no idea I needed in my life.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play two long time high school friends (with more chemistry than a science lab might I add), who have pretty much spent the entirety of their high school days working the books into oblivion instead of ever just having typical teenage fun for once. With one more day to go before they cap it all off with graduation they make the horrific discovery that all the inferior dumbasses, who did nothing but party their youth away, also (somehow) got into prestigious schools and achieved high marks in spite of seemingly not giving a shit.
Feldstein has something that resembles an internal psychotic breakdown and declares that the two of them must compact all the years of missed out fun into a single night – tonight! Thus ensues the type of carnage you might expect. What sets Booksmart aside from your average cheap comedy is many fold, it’s actually very funny for one thing; the jokes work hard to cover a rather wide spectrum, they range from subtle to the bombastic, the delightful to the gross and disturbing. These two friends have been so for long enough that they know some seriously messed up stuff about each other you’d usually want to keep to yourself, I won’t get into specifics but I was nearly crying and who knew cringing could be a good thing?
It also helps that the performances on display are genuinely great, how often does that happen in a movie like this? Great actors playing actual thought out characters, colour me impressed as I even started to find them relatable before long. They have little code words between them that the film never feels the unnecessary need to explain and the way they sadistically tease each other brings relentless laughs. I think I liked Dever’s character best, while Feldstein was certainly a riot, Dever’s Amy had some interesting story going on that I couldn’t help but find really sweet and huggable. Other side characters also have their little motifs and it’s probably them whom people will remember most fondly.
Strangely enough the film also manages to do something I usually can’t stand in comedies – it gets serious for a minute, but I think Booksmart gets away with it because, unlike those other movies, I actually was invested in the characters and their little journey so when things actually started getting emotional I legit cared very much. The filmmakers even try their luck at riffing on teen-party-high school movie cliches which can be very risky, I mean how many times have we seen someone accidentally take drugs and start tripping out like David Cronenberg’s worst fever dream? Fortunately, I think, they pulled it off, it did catch me off guard for a second there but they keep the original laughs coming so well that I ended up not caring; in fact I’d say bravo.
Even Olivia Wilde’s description of the film: “the training day of high school movies” makes me laugh. I laughed here, I laughed there, just laughs everywhere! The pacing is as comfortable as sleeping in on a teacher’s training day while your younger sibling gets no such luxury, the characters are likeable, relatable and I wish I knew them in reality, the film is intelligent, unashamed, tastefully tasteless and I really had fun with it. I’ve heard a lot of people make Superbad comparisons which are true I guess, there’s even one joke that is ripped straight out of Superbad but it doesn’t matter, this is a great film, always room for some technical improvement but I care about that less and less the more I think about it.
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