4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Reviewer: Melissa Stewart

(MA15+AUS / R – US) Kaitlyn Dever, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte

A fresh take on the end of high school one-night adventure, Booksmart, is witty and original, keeping the laughs rolling throughout the film. 

Booksmart is the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde, with an all-female writer team including Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman and executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam Mckay. This combination of talent behind and in front of the camera delivers an effortless coming-of-age comedy.

The film follows best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), academic overachievers on the eve of their graduation. They are about to reap the rewards of their study worth ethic that saw them buckling down in high school and getting into their first choice colleges. However, their world view comes crashing down when they realize their peers who seemingly didn’t care about school and partied on weekends, also got into Ivy League schools or offers to work at Google. The same students they used to turn their noses up at, just smashed Molly and Amy’s ‘all work and no play’ mantra. 

Determined not to graduate without the full high school experience Molly convinces Amy to go out with a bang at their first party with the rest of their graduating class. But first they have to get there, que detours, boats, stranger danger, and laughing through tears. 

Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12) onscreen friendship is endearing and is the glue of the film. Beanie once again proves her acting chops takes on the leading actress mantel with ease. The young cast is supported by the likes of Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) who chaperones the next generation of comedy actors.   

Booksmart expertly navigates relationships from friendships, peers and especially queer crushes through Amy’s character who is lesbian and the response from her Christian parents.  The film does not oversell its progressive stance or LGTBQI inclusion rather uses it as an archetype and is not the central theme of the film. 

Some of the first reviews, try to compare this film to other teen one-night adventure films, but comparing would be a disservice to Booksmart. This film does not try to be a female version of its predecessors, instead it stands on its own stage. 

Kaitlyn Dever stars as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

The rating is MA15+ AUS (R – US) and sexual references might be uncomfortable for some audiences, while for others it may be a welcome and honest depiction of the conversations females have around romance and sex. Even though it seems to be targeted to a teen audience with teenaged girls at the core of the story, this film is meant for mature audiences. But if viewers manage to overlook that aspect, the film is also an interesting look at how easy it is to close yourself off from people. While it’s important to take care of who you surround yourself with, dismissing people before you know them as Amy and Molly did, can feed into the judgement that holds these same people down. This dismissal can also inhibit your own growth. 

Booksmart shows you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but it’s important to have compassion and understand that everyone is going through their own journey. 

This message complimented with a 10 out of 10 soundtrack makes Booksmart a fun rollercoaster in cinema.

Judging others, what does the Bible say?

Matthew 7:1-5, James 4:11-12, Ephesians 4:29

Author: Melissa Stewart – When she is not writing film reviews manages the communications, marketing, and social media management at Insights Magazine. Check out the details online. (Uniting Church in Australia’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.)