Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release date: 24 May 2019
Running Time: 105 Minutes
On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Booksmart is a 2019 American coming-of-age comedy film directed by Olivia Wilde (in her directorial debut), from a screenplay by the writing team of Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman. It stars Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis, and follows two graduating high school girls who set out to finally break the rules and party on their last day of classes. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay act as executive producers.
The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 10, 2019 and was theatrically released in the United States on May 24, 2019, by United Artists Releasing, to acclaim from critics.
Amy and Molly are two high school seniors who have been best friends since childhood but considered pretentious by their peers. Amy has been out for two years and has a crush on a girl named Ryan. Molly urges Amy to attempt to forge a relationship with her before they graduate. On the eve of their high school graduation, Molly overhears some of her peers making fun of her in the bathroom and confronts them. They tell her that not everything is about school and that they all got into good colleges despite their partying antics. Molly angrily tells Amy everything and says that they should have enjoyed their time in high school more. Molly convinces a reluctant Amy to join her in going to an end-of-year party held by Nick.
The pair realize that neither of them knows where Nick’s party is hosted. Molly calls a Lyft and is picked up by Jared, a kindhearted and wealthy classmate who thinks that they want to go to the party he is hosting instead. He brings them to his yacht, where they stay for a few minutes before leaving after an encounter with his drug-crazed friend Gigi. The girls call a second Lyft and are shocked to be picked up by their principal, Jordan Brown. After accidentally playing pornography through his car speakers, Brown drops them off at their classmate George’s house, thinking they wanted to go to his murder mystery party. The two encounter Gigi again, who reveals that the food that they ate on the yacht was drugged, and both Amy and Molly soon begin to trip and hallucinate that they are dolls. They escape the house and attempt to get the location of the party from a pizza delivery man, deducing only one house in the area will have had so many pizzas delivered there. He kicks them out and chastises them for not thinking clearly. Amy accidentally leaves her phone in his car before he drives off. Molly’s phone is nearly dead, lasting just long enough to call for help from their teacher and friend Ms. Fine, who gives them a change of clothes and a ride to Nick’s party.
When they arrive, Amy goes to talk to Ryan and Molly goes to talk to Nick, her crush. Amy works up the confidence to talk to Ryan before finding her and Nick making out. Amy, embarrassed, wants to leave, but Molly refuses to let her. In her rage, Amy reveals that she was planning on taking a gap year to travel to Africa, as she resents how Molly always tries to control her life under the guise of pushing her to explore opportunities. The two loudly argue in front of their classmates, and Amy goes to the bathroom with a panic attack. She is found by Hope, whom many students find cruel. At first combative towards each other, Amy kisses Hope and they almost have sex but Amy drinks from a nearby cup and vomits on Hope, ruining their moment. Molly is driven home by Annabelle, a popular student with a reputation for promiscuity, and the two bond over the stereotypes that both have suffered from.
Molly wakes up on graduation day feeling ashamed of what happened between her and Amy. She discovers on her phone that everyone is talking about how cool Amy was for distracting police officers when they came to shut down Nick’s party, allowing the rest of the students to escape. Molly visits Amy in jail and apologizes for her manipulative actions, leading to the pair’s reconciliation. They realize that the delivery driver they encountered is a wanted mass murderer and trade his information to get Amy out of jail. They take Jared’s car to graduation where Molly gives an improvised farewell speech, receiving a round of applause.
A few days later, Molly helps Amy prepare for her trip to Africa. Hope comes to the door and gives Amy her number. Molly drives Amy to the airport and they share a tearful goodbye. As Molly drives away, Amy jumps in front of her car and they go for breakfast before Amy’s flight.
In February 2018, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein joined the cast of the film, with Olivia Wilde directing from a screenplay written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman, and Susanna Fogel. Megan Ellison, Chelsea Bernard, David Distenfeld, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Jessica Elbaum would serve as producers on the film, under their Annapurna Pictures and Gloria Sanchez Productions, respectively. In May 2018, Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo joined the cast of the film. That same month, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Mike O’Brien, Mason Gooding, Noah Galvin, Diana Silvers, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Molly Gordon, and Nico Hiraga joined the cast of the film.
Principal photography began in May 2018 around the San Fernando Valley.
It had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 10, 2019. It was released on May 24, 2019.
Box office: In the United States and Canada, Booksmart was released alongside Aladdin and Brightburn, and is projected to gross around $12 million from 2,505 theaters in its four-day opening weekend. The film made $875,000 from Thursday night previews.
Critical response: On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% and an average rating of 8.33/10, with 184 out of 189 registered reviews being positive. The website’s critical consensus reads: “Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale.
Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling it a “refreshingly original take on the raunchy coming-of-age comedy” and praising Feldstein and Dever’s chemistry.
Booksmart: Movie Trailer
Booksmart: Movie Review
Sometimes your bedrock assumptions about the world and your place in it suddenly collapse, a kind of existential earthquake that makes you rethink everything. For Molly, a Los Angeles teenager, that happens on the last day of senior year, in the school bathroom.
It’s no exaggeration — and not really much of a judgment — to say that Molly (Beanie Feldstein) thinks she’s better than everyone else, with the crucial exception of her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). Valedictorian and student body president, on her way to Yale and then, she’s certain, to a seat on the Supreme Court, Molly has played the meritocratic game to win. Her morning meditation instructs her to “dominate the day,” and while her peers have been goofing off and hanging out, she and Amy have been hitting the books and building their résumés.
It’s thus uniquely humiliating when Molly learns, in the bathroom, that a bunch of kids she’s taken for losers — stoners, skaters, sexpots, slackers — are also going to top schools. If everyone’s a winner, Molly’s whole identity is a sham.
This revelation sets off the festival of furious, belated YOLO-ing that drives most of “Booksmart,” a fast, brainy, nasty-but-nice teenage comedy directed by Olivia Wilde. Molly and Amy, who is about to leave for a summer do-gooding program in Botswana before matriculating at Columbia, have one night left to cut loose, and the movie rides in their wake as they bounce through Los Angeles in search of the party that will be wild enough to make up for all the time they’ve wasted playing by the rules.
The rules of this particular genre are clear enough. If you’ve seen “Dazed and Confused” or “Superbad” you’ll recognize the mood of aggressive silliness and sincere sentiment that hovers over Molly and Amy’s adventures. Wilde and the screenwriters (Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel) don’t so much reinvent the formula as refresh it, infusing some familiar situations with an exuberant, generous, matter-of-factly feminist sensibility.
“Booksmart” is sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid. The social stereotypes that have been a staple of the American high school experience as imagined in movies and TV shows going back to John Hughes — or “Happy Days,” or Dobie Gillis — are still intact, but they function as myths to be debunked rather than truths to be upheld.
The one dumb thing that Molly ever did was to judge her peers according to categories and appearances, and “Booksmart” gently teaches her a lesson by giving everyone else the same privileges she claims for herself and foists on Amy: to play against type; to be surprising; to change.
Feldstein, a wonder in Greta Gerwig’s “Ladybird” as the titular character’s best friend, forges an instantly classic comic bond with the birdlike Dever. Molly and Amy are heirs of Lucy and Ethel, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, Abbi and Ilana. Their friendship is the crucial and absolute fact in the movie, though of course it will be tested as the night spins onward.
Amy’s well-meaning parents (Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte) have long assumed that Molly is her girlfriend. (Their daughter came out in the 10th grade, and they’re determined to be supportive, even if they’re still a little freaked out.) But the “something special” the two girls share lies “deeper than the deeps of sex,” as D.H. Lawrence said of a different classic friendship. They both have crushes — Victoria Ruesga and Mason Gooding play the objects of their infatuation — but sex and romance are side pursuits, subplots to the main love story.
And also, along with drugs and popular music, occasions for Wilde, in her directing debut, to demonstrate a nimble and inventive comic style. The rapid-fire, note-perfect dialogue is punctuated with moments of brilliant conceptual whimsy: animated and underwater sequences; horror-movie jump scares; immersive theater.