Booksmart (2019)

Olivia Wilde
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Noah Galvin, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Mike O'Brien, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Mason Gooding, Victoria Ruesga

Moving behind the camera for her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde makes a splash with her take on the coming of age comedy. The resulting picture is a hugely enjoyable ride which feels absolutely fresh, and heralds Wilde as a wondrous directorial talent to watch out for, with a keen eye for the visually spectacular.

On the eve before their graduation, high school friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have gotten the grades they hoped for, but have realised they sacrificed any attempts at socialising and partying with their peers in the process. Determined to show themselves as more than just their studying, the pair choose to attend a party thrown by a popular classmate.

From the first moment they share the screen, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are an utter joy to behold. The pair wonderfully work off one another, as their brilliant chemistry sells the characters long-time friendship through even the smallest of moments. Being the more confident of the two, Molly is prone to making the decisions, but also cares what her classmates think of her. She ultimately wants to show there's more to her than just school work, and feels she must prove herself as being fun, and Feldstein does a great job capturing the strength and vulnerability at the core of her character. As Molly is the more decisive of the pair, Amy is left trying to make her voice feel heard, while pining for a skateboarding classmate named Ryan. The character wants to grow in confidence, and Dever is a great talent in portraying this.

As with the more memorable coming of age tales, Olivia Wilde brings a degree of honesty to the proceedings which resonates throughout. This is exemplified in the awkward nature of teenage life, for comedic purposes, as well as for the purpose of the underlying theme, as prejudging others keeps us from actually knowing them. Keeping a distance is easier when you enact in spreading rumours and speculation, when it's a barrier which prevents you from seeing others for who they truly are, and this is put across in an utterly heartfelt manner. It allows us to see numerous layers to the various characters who inhabit the screen, as seemingly one-note figures are treated with a great degree of humanity and understanding.

Crucially, for a comedy, it's downright hilarious. Be it a memorable encounter with a pizza delivery man, an unfortunate taxi ride, or Billie Lourd's scene-stealing turn, this is one of the most consistently humorous films of 2019. Although, a subplot including Jessica Williams' character feels rather unneeded, and could have been excised from the film, but this is a small issue in such a terrific overall feature.

Booksmart is an impressive directorial debut, packed with empathy, compassion, and downright hilarity. Come for the heartfelt friendship and bounds of humour, stay for the impressive work on display.