Booksmart: The Female-Led Comedy We Didn’t Know We Needed

BY MAYA GEORGI

Forget what you’ve heard about Booksmart’s “failure” in the box-office opening weekend, the coming-of-age comedy has made its irrevocable mark on the world of high-school rager films. With strong female leads, hysterically funny moments, desirable friendships, and overall realistic depictions of the treacherous high school era,  Booksmart has it all and then some.

Booksmart officially hit theaters last Friday, May 24th but premiered at South By Southwest. Since then, the film has been praised by critics and hyped up across social media. Still, Olivia Wilde’s status as a ‘debut director’ gave other critics the room to underestimate Booksmart and its break-out star, Beanie Feldstein, while comparing it to classic high-school rager Superbad (Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s younger sister).

Although Booksmart is a high-school rager, it defies the norms of the genre by focusing on a female friendship. From the first second that Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) are introduced, it’s hard not to fall in love with their friendship. They gas each other up in the most creative ways, support each other’s Herculean ambitions — Molly plans on becoming the youngest Supreme Court judge ever, discuss their masturbation rituals, and even use “Malala” as their safe word in a range of situations.

The film follows Molly and Amy on their last day of high school before graduation. All seems to be going as expected for the “nerdy” uber-feminist duo who cannot wait to leave this chapter behind, until Molly learns that the classmates she had looked down on for their crude behavior and endless partying also got into reputable universities. One girl known as “Triple A” even got into Yale with Molly — a fact that sends Molly spiraling as she learns that her sacrifice of a social life was all for naught. Quickly and passionately, (while throwing their celebration cake into the San Fernando Valley) Molly declares that she and Amy must make it to the party being hosted by popular, handsome boy Nick (Mason Gooding).

By placing intelligent, complex characters like Molly and Amy into a situation with wild possibilities, Booksmart further proves the comedic gold that female leads can produce. As the girls attempt to make their way to the party, they face hilarious, nearly unimaginable obstacles. There are so many moments that will have you cackling in your seat, eyes welling with tears from laughing too hard. Whether it be their numerous encounters with Gigi (Billie Catherine Lourd), the outrageously awkward Lyft ride the girls experience with their principal, or their accidental drug trip, each misshapen adventure is more golden than the next and organically portrays aspects of the female experience. Booksmart even manages to depict a queer female experience through shy, reluctant Amy and her journey.

Booksmart also has a star-studded cast to keep the magnificent humor alive and well. Among them are SNL alums Jared Sudeikis, Will Forte, and Michael Patrick O’Brien who play small, but memorable roles alongside the amazing Lisa Kudrow. But it’s the breakout stars like Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, and Noah Galvin that provide Booksmart with its youthful spirit. Each young actor helps Booksmart with its realistic depiction of high school. Their characters are vibrant, funny, sexual and concurrently insecure. Highlights include: Theater king, George  (Noah Galvin) sticking his whole mouth over a microphone as he sings Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” and then storming off stage when the lyrics hit home.

The greatest aspect of the high school characters are their realistic interactions with each other. Once Molly and Amy do make it to the party, no one treats them maliciously or even ostentatiously, as is so often (and wrongly) shown in high school movies. With graduation looming ahead, Booksmart nails the strange sense of heightened camaraderie that students often experience at the end of high school. Triple A even ends up driving Molly home.

The success of Booksmart goes beyond its outrageous humor, the movie also reveals how much heart it holds. Molly and Amy’s peers drop the B.S. and unveil the raw pieces of themselves at the end while Molly and Amy are each forced to face their own personal hurdles and the horror of teenage heartbreak. From end to beginning, their crazy adventure goes to show that strong friendships can get through any tribulations that come their way — especially encounters with the law. In this way, Booksmart has raised the bar for high-school rager films as it balances emotion, a female perspective, and of course straight up teenage debauchery.

Lead Image Credit: Giphy