BY EMILY THOMAS
Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is a heartwarming story that celebrates fierce female friendships. Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McCay, the film is a joyous, emotional and feel-good look into the lives of teenagers as they finish their high school education. We meet Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) on the last day of school- studious and determined to get into good colleges, they have neglected to attend parties and socialise. Upon discovering that their fellow party-mad students achieved equally high grades, and that the pair’s academic snobbery has only isolated them further, they decide to make some memories on the night before graduation. Feldstein shines as Molly, the overachieving class president who slowly discovers that there’s more to life than scholarly success. The pair attempt to crash a series of parties throughout the night as they learn to see beyond the stereotypes their classmates appear to embody, and finally manage to let their hair down.
The star-studded cast is peppered with comic actors: Jason Sudekis stars as the weary principal/ unsuspecting Lyft driver, while Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte feature as Amy’s adoring parents. Skyler Gisondo and Billie Lourd are fantastic as Jared and Gigi, the school oddballs who crave acceptance from their classmates. The film’s inspired soundtrack establishes the tone from the very beginning; Lizzo, Salt-N-Pepa and M.I.A play as Amy and Molly embark on their journey of self discovery. Featuring a dance sequence and a drug-induced hallucination in which the pair turn into Barbies, the unique spirit and relentless energy of the film make it a complete joy to watch from start to finish.
The film perfectly captures the essence of being a teenager, and the need to categorize oneself in order to find a place in high school life is reflected and challenged. Similar to Ladybird (in which Feldstein plays the best friend of Saoirse Ronan’s Christine), the sparkling humour and beautiful friendship between the leads makes this film stand out from your run-of-the-mill coming-of-age story. Touching and verisimilar moments abound, including hilarious scenes where the girls wildly compliment each other’s outfits. Their outlandish adulation, cries of “call the police” and fake fainting are typical of any teenage girl hyping up her friend in the bathroom of a party.
The film I needed as an eighteen year old, Booksmart is a fresh, original take on the high school genre, and should be essential viewing for anyone who has ever even been to school.
Booksmart opens in Irish theatres on May 31st.