I veer away from fretting and complaining today to bring you a special feature I’ll call “Rose in Reel Life,” an occasional post on current movies.
Today’s spotlight is on Booksmart.
What would you do if you found out the high school classmates you thought were screw-ups ended up achieving as much as you did by working yourself nearly to death? You’d probably join them, right? That’s the premise, anyhow, of the Olivia Wilde-directed film Booksmart, starring Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing).
Throughout high school, Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever) felt justified in working hard and getting top grades and accolades. Molly, class president, finds herself headed to Yale, while Amy prepares for a humanitarian trip to Africa before starting school at Columbia in the fall. They didn’t party one bit, and it shows. But after an unfortunate incident in the co-ed school restroom (is that a thing?), When Molly confronts her classmates, lording it over them what her stellar achievements gained her and what their foolhardy ways got them, she’s shocked to learn that they too are enrolled in prestigious schools or heading straight into interesting careers.
Humiliated and frustrated, Molly and Amy swear to not be outdone by their classmates this time either, and they decide to make up for all the good-girl behavior of the past four years by whooping it up at a blow-out party. Several mishaps along the way (some running too long, distracting from the story, I think) finally lead the pair to the mother of all parties. Mayhem ensues, of course, which leads to a falling out between Molly and Amy. At the fear of sounding like a Scholastic Book Club summary: Could this be the end of their friendship?
Overall, I enjoyed the film’s wit and cynicism, but I like a movie with real-life scenarios to be like real life and not a fantasy, where all the adults are either invisible (we only meet one set of parents) or are daffy and only featured to aid and abet the teens.
There are several inconceivable outcomes to some of the scenarios too, especially when the police show up at the party, leading to one teen’s arrest and its aftermath. There are of course some funny lines, but the dialogue is too sharp and clever for even Columbia- or Yale-bound kids to speak. The language is over the top and pretty raunchy overall, too, as are a few of the scenes, including one involving two teens in a bathroom becoming intimate. (However, it’s somewhat refreshing to realize four-letter words and overt sexuality have become so commonplace as to be almost meaningless.)
I’d give Booksmart a 7.5 out of 10. My score would have been higher had the teens acted more like vulnerable seventeen-year-olds and less like crude adults. After all, some of the self-realization they experience would more likely not have hit them until their thirtieth high school reunion.
Other movies on DVD or streaming to consider:
Lady Bird (R, 2018)—10/10: smart, funny, wise, believable, and just edgy enough.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (PG-13, 2015)—10/10: One of the most raw and creative films starring teens I’ve ever seen.
The Way, Way Back (PG-13, 2013)—9/10: Awkward moments of a young man during a summer of growing up.
What’s your take?