When it comes to filmmaking comedy has to be one of the hardest genres to break into. Take a look at any straight-to-DVD section of a store and you will find a mountain of dramas and horrors, and yes most will certainly be okay films to watch. On the other hand when you sit down and watch a lot of new filmmakers tackle the comedy genre and the films end up being so poorly written that you don’t even crack a smile let alone laugh.
It is for that reason that Booksmart ends up being one of the finds of 2019. Sure the film’s director – Olivia Wilde – is known in Hollywood. As an actress she is known for her roles in films such as Tron: Legacy and Rush but as a director her only experience sees her directing two short films and a video clip for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The fact that a first time feature director can create a film as good as Booksmart is a feat upon herself.
The film centres around two soon-to-be High School graduates – Molly (Beanie Feldstein – Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, Lady Bird) who is celebrating the fact that she is heading off to one of America’s most prestigious schools while secretly having a crush on one of the most popular boys in school. Then there is her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever – Justified, Short Term 12) who came out of the closet a couple of years earlier but has always been too afraid to act on her sexuality with any of the people she likes.
Together the two girls have managed to avoid every party or fun catch-up while at High School in a bid to get the kinds of grades that will get them into a good university. Now on the day before they graduate they learn that some of the kids that did all the fun stuff also ended up getting into those same colleges. Suddenly the pair felt like they have wasted their High School years and Molly demands that they attend the party of her crush… but in order to do so they need to find where the party is as well.
The film plays out like a modern day mix of American Pie and a Harold & Kumar film. At the heart of the film is a coming-of-age story. Yes there is the veiled storyline of ‘not really living’ but ultimately this is a story about two young women discovering their sexuality. While Molly is coming to terms with having a crush on Nick (Mason Gooding – Let It Snow, Ballers) a boy that she likes to pretend that she can’t stand, Amy is facing up to the fact that at some stage she is going to have to have sex with another woman – whether that be her crush Ryan (Victoria Ruesga – first time role) or not.
Then you have the Harold & Kumar element to the film which sees the two girls start on a journey that sees them go across the suburbs landing at weird parties, hi-jacking pizza delivery cars and getting to know the likes of Jared (Skyler Gisondo – Vacation, The Amazing Spider-Man) the rich boy who wants to be liked and the mysterious Gigi (Billie Lourd – American Horror Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi).
Due to a witty script somehow this film manages to bring together the two elements beautifully well. The film manages to mix outrageous comedy, some of the strangest characters that you are ever likely to meet along with touching moments between two friends all the way throughout the film. The fact that the script also introduces the audience to characters that you can’t help but like as well as remember as well as some of the funniest situation comedy since Road Trip is nothing short of a miracle – and the result is a film that is guaranteed to become a cult classic in the vein of Clerks.
Wilde is also blessed with an amazingly talented cast. Both Kaitlyn Dever and Bernie Feldtein announce themselves as stars in the making as they match the comic wit with the likes of experienced veterans like Jason Sudeikis (We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends, Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion). Then there is the supporting cast that consists of Skyler Gisondo and Billie Lourd who will also be stars when given the right opportunities. Together the two steal every single scene that they are in.
Booksmart is one of the most intelligent films that you will seen in 2019. It is a comedy with heart, a comedy that makes you laugh and a film that showcases a young cast who are heading for big things. It also reveals that Olivia Wilde just might be one of the most interesting filmmakers to have surfaced in a long time… she is certainly somebody to watch in the future. If you like quirky comedies then Booksmart is the film for you.