May 20, 2019

SCREEN | Olivia Wilde Teaches 'Booksmart'

"What took them four years, we're doing in one night!"
Kaitlyn Dever Beanie Feldstein Olivia Wilde | Booksmart

First-time filmmaker Olivia Wilde combines the well-worn last day of school meets all-in-one-night and teen party movie genres together while bringing her own very strong contemporary feminist bent to the joyous Booksmart. Young actresses Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein star as graduating, overachieving best friends, Amy and Molly, who vow to party down and overcome their no fun reputations before they leave for college—not unlike the similarly plotted Superbad.

Obvious comparisons to the aforementioned teen movie, Lady Bird, and their core emotional basis on friendships aside, Booksmart is a riotous, broadly appealing teen comedy that twists most of the usual coming-of-age hallmarks and touchstones to its own more enlightened and topical points. Wilde's talent for casting and working with actors clearly show from her own experiences as a performer as she superbly balances so many big performances together more than ably.

What's most remarkable is how effectively Wilde builds out a cast of specific characters so vividly all interacting with each other throughout the night's wild antics. From Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo as scene-stealing class weirdos to Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte as Amy's awkwardly supportive parents and Jessica Williams and Jason Sudeikis as offbeat teachers, the film is bursting with A-plus characters that move Amy and Molly's drive for fun forward splendidly.

Billie Lourd Olivia Wilde | Booksmart

Scripted primarily by recent rom-com veteran Katie Silberman in an efficient yet episodic fashion, the two lead performances are fantastically realized from script to screen and so earnestly rooted in female friendship. Feldstein's broadly comic type-A performance is always laugh out loud funny without being grating as Dever grounds the raunchy antics with a more serious demeanour.

Another remarkable factor in Booksmart is the expert sound design and editing with needle drops, countless hip-hop musical cues, and smooth camera movements so vividly etched together through sound to enhance the emotional comedy of the film's premise and performances. It captures that specific feeling of transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood with all the angst and anxiety it comes with so fluidly.

Booksmart is such an appealing high school teen party flick that's so much more sophisticated and thoughtful than it needs to be thanks to the talent involved and Wilde's sharply intuitive direction. Its use of archetypes and teen movie troupes updated for today and used to comment or sublimate current expectations only make the jokes even funnier.

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