First Hit: A potent mixture of comedy and how high school can bring out the best and worst in kids.
Many people have or had a best friend in high school. Those friends are your backstop; understanding enough of you to let you sense a level of acceptance bringing peace in turbulent times. Sometimes it is the group of like people you run with and other times it is just one person.
In Booksmart, we have best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) as two very focused bookish girls who spent all their time, outside the classroom, studying to graduate high school and get into the best colleges.
The film starts on the last day as they walk through the halls of the school and the party has begun. All the other kids are just having fun, throwing stuff in the air, not caring about anything but having fun. Amy and Molly are severe students and think that others won’t amount to anything. They are playing it straight.
Sitting in Ms. Fine’s (Jessica Williams) class, the film gives a great picture of how these two do not fit into the school’s popular social structure. The fact that their teacher Ms. Fine suggests that they let loose a little is funny and telling.
Despite being outsiders, both of them have minor crushes on other students. Amy, being gay, has a crush on a quirky, edgy girl Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and Molly has a crush on Nick (Mason Gooding).
When the girls learn that the other “party hardy” students are also smart and heading to ivy league schools as well, they decide on the last day before graduating, they are going to attend a significant high school party and cut loose.
The path to the party is full of high-jinx, and funny situations as the girls do their best to get into the party mode for the first time in their lives. Their boundaries get crushed, and they end up having their first all-out disagreement in front of the entire party.
I thought the dialogue was smart and whippet-fast. I liked the scenes they found themselves in, including a Lyft being driven by their principle Jordan Brown (Jason Sudeikis). Ms. Fine feels sorry for them and in a critical moment of the evening, provides real party clothes for the girls because she’s a single woman in LA and has lots of clothes in her car. Kids having crushes on their teachers and girls who maybe went too far with too many boys finding out that it can hurt. All of these vignettes were really well acted and staged.
Dever was terrific as the cute, conservative, young gay girl. She did a great job with her character. Feldstein was equally funny and engaging in her role. Williams was excellent, and I loved her walking up behind a student at graduation, mistakenly – an amusing scene. Sudeikis was his usual charming self and both as Principal and a Lyft driver, he made the role believable. Ruesga was outstanding as the quirky, fun loving girl. Gooding was excellent as the class VP and, in the end, a sweet boy. Molly Gordon, as Triple-A (Annabelle), was excellent as the girl who wanted to be loved for who she is. Skyler Gisondo was sublime as the rich boy who wished to have friends and had a kind giving heart. Diana Silvers (as Hope) was arresting as the slightly bitter girl who put down others but really cared as well. Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman wrote a powerfully relevant screenplay that was both insightful and hip. Olivia Wilde got outstanding performances and clearly had a strong vision directing this film.
Overall: Good movie for parents of teenagers and teenagers alike.