There were four of us in the theater: my best friend Carly, me, and another pair of teenage girls. I’d like to think they were best friends too. There’s no better movie to see with your best friend than Booksmart.
When I told my dad that I was going to go see a poignant comedy, he wanted to tag along. He said that there are seldom movies that get reviews as good as Booksmart’s. I’m relieved he ultimately opted out, though—there’s a pretty lengthy scene in which one of our protagonists, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), admits to using her childhood panda stuffed animal as a masturbatory companion. I’m not even sure if my dad knows that I take birth control.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut was nothing short of superb, and in many ways exceeded my expectations. Similar in style to Greta Gerwig’s nostalgic debut, Lady Bird, Wilde’s authenticity is crucial. The story is sharp, humorous, and emotional. It tells a story about the cumulation of high school through the multitude of emotions that high schoolers experience. Its imperfections are perfect, and its honesty is unshakable.
The film focuses on the friendship between the seemingly cool, calm, and collected Amy (Dever) and the outspoken and driven Molly (Beanie Feldstein). Amy has been out for two years, but has never kissed a girl. Molly struggles to admit that she has feelings for the boy she has feelings for (because in her world, a jock and a valedictorian could never date). Both are incredibly studious, and have been accepted into the college of their dreams—Columbia University and Yale University, respectively. Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Diana Silvers, Molly Goodwin, and Will Forte shine in supporting roles.
After spending four years of high school focusing solely on college, Molly’s world is turned upside down after learning that the peers she perceived as lazy have not only been accepted into prestigious schools, but have maintained a social life as well. This is one of my favorite scenes of the movie, and it’s also where Wilde’s directorial chops shine: Molly’s Yale-bound cerebrum simply cannot process that “jocks” or “partiers” could ever possibly be granted admission to Ivy League schools. How could a girl nicknamed “Triple A” for her reputation of giving boys “roadside assistance” possibly be going to the same elite college as her? Molly’s ego is assaulted, and her natural reaction is to tear up the hallways, interrogating her innocent classmates about the schools they will be attending in the fall.
Molly’s intense, over exaggerated reaction is hilarious, but reinforces the pressure of attending Ivy League-esque universities—how are teenagers supposed to react when a plethora of popular films tell us that there are about 20 colleges that are up to par?
Molly has come to her Jesus moment, and so she decides that she and Amy should spend the night before graduation attempting to make up for the high school escapades they never enjoyed.
Before the pair decides to enjoy a wild final night of high school-dom, Amy mentions that someone seems to always do something extremely dumb and get arrested the night before graduation (I love foreshadowing). For the class of 2019, that extremely dumb person ends up being Amy—but there’s a night’s worth of experiences before that happens.
Throughout the course of the night, we watch Amy and Molly attend yacht and murder-mystery parties, endure drug-induced hallucinations, and borrow party clothes from their favorite teacher. The fun ends in a falling out of Ivy League proportions between the two friends, as Amy accuses Molly of being controlling and Molly retaliates by dubbing Amy a coward. The scene is painful and palpable, speaking to the repercussions of being inseparable but dishonest.
Amy experiences intimacy for her first time with Hope (Silvers) after running into a presumably empty bathroom post-falling out. The scene is awkward and embarrassing (Hope has to tell Amy, “I don’t think that’s the hole you think it is”) and culminates in Amy throwing up all over Hope. But it’s real. The first sexual encounters are almost never seamless; they’re learning experiences. Whoever said parties weren’t an educational experience clearly wasn’t having enough fun.
Amy winds up in prison after sacrificing herself as a diversion to help her peers evade the police. Molly and Amy reconcile when the former is able to help the latter leave prison, and the two make it to graduation just in time for Molly to give her improvised, raw valedictorian speech. “I spent so much time trying to prove I was better than you because I was scared of you,” she tells her peers. In the course of one night, Molly perhaps learnt more about herself than she did in four years.
Booksmart, more than anything, is about obliterating stereotypes and preconceived notions. Everyone has a story, and everyone is multidimensional. Our protagonists learn that people do not fit neatly into one category; they themselves do not fit neatly into one category.
As Triple A said so eloquently, “I’m incredible at handjobs, but I also got a 1560 on my SATs.”
Sofia De Ceglie