Note: This is a spoiler-free Booksmart movie review
You’re going to get A LOT of reviews comparing Booksmart to the classic high school comedy, Superbad. That comparison is accurate in a lot of ways, but it’s also lazy and pigeonholes the movie. We can do better than that, and the film deserves its own review.
Booksmart is one of the better movies of 2019 so far, because of how funny it is but also thanks to a ton of artistic creativity and a strong message.
Strong Women Abound
Booksmart is distinctly and uniquely female in the way it’s written, directed, and acted. This is overwhelmingly refreshing.
For starters, one main character of the film is a lesbian. That shouldn’t be a big deal in 2019, and it’s introduced as a matter-of-fact detail in the film. But in the real world, the stigma is still there and it’s not nearly as normalized. Movies with strong, leading, gay characters; like Booksmart; are important. The movie uses its platform to send a message. That’s significant.
The movie also addresses the stigma “less popular” girls face in high school. A bunch of 16 thru 18-year-olds gathering together in the same place, all trying to be popular at the same time, can be a harsh and judgmental place. Booksmart faces that issue head-on and breaks through it in a way that makes the main characters very easy to root for.
In simple terms, everyone has a unique story and is treated as equal. It’s a well-written character line that develops with the movie.
The main thing that sets Booksmart apart from Superbad is the artistic feel it has in addition to being funny. The film alternates between funny and artsy, and then in a few scenes combines the two. The vision comes straight from director Olivia Wilde and writer Katie Silberman‘s brain and into yours.
It’s risky to make a movie that has you laughing out loud one minute then thinking about what it means the next. There’s humor sure, but what makes Booksmart unique is the ability to work in the serious.
The movie is funny. But it’s also raw and real. I’m 30 years old, but from what I gather it’s hard being a teenager in 2019. Booksmart portrays that in a way that gets a message across and makes you listen because it’s so funny in between.
While Booksmart is vastly different from Superbad, it is also similar in all the best ways. For starters, the story contains two unpopular best friends from high school roaming around a suburban town looking for a “cool kid” party. There happens to be a certain formula there.
The chemistry between our two main characters, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), is beautiful. The two actresses play off each other seamlessly throughout, particularly while complimenting each other’s outfits. It’s a great yin and yang between two brilliantly-written characters.
The movie is also just ridiculous, laugh out loud, and immature funny. Sex jokes, drug jokes, pun jokes, and physical comedy jokes. Booksmart has a little bit of everything.
I will say it is a little gratuitous with the language sometimes, which doesn’t always work. Here’s a comparison: sometimes a stand-up comedian feels a joke isn’t landing so he or she says “fuck” to get a cheap laugh.
Lotta “fuck” being thrown around in Booksmart. It does feel forced at times. The point is the movie doesn’t need it and it’s over-the-top funny 75% of the time.
Should I Go See Booksmart?
In a word, yes. Booksmart takes a known formula and puts its own tweak on it to make the film original. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it sends a message. This is a movie worth supporting in the theater.
(Featured Image courtesy of UA Releasing)