Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Austin Crute, Noah Galvin, Michael Patrick O'Brien
Written by: Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman
Directed by: Olivia Wilde
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking - all involving teens
Running Time: 102
Date: 05/23/2019

Booksmart (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bound Together

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A feature directing debut by Olivia Wilde, this wise, funny, compassionate high school comedy succeeds wildly on almost all counts, with its strong, lovable characters and its fresh, bracing approach.

In Booksmart, it's the last day of high school for best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). They have spent their entire time there working hard and preparing themselves for bright futures at the colleges of their choices. Then, shockingly, Molly discovers that her classmates — who have spent their high school years having fun and partying — have also been accepted into either top colleges or landed first-class jobs.

Molly decides that, since they have missed out, they need to go to the biggest year-end party in town. The downside is that they don't actually know where the party is. In their attempts to find it, they wind up at a yacht party, a drama-club party, in a cab with their principal, and more misadventures. Before the end of the night, however, they will find more than they are looking for.

Booksmart recalls nothing less than the vintage John Hughes movies of the 1980s, especially Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but without any of those dated, cringy moments. Ironically, its only flaw is inherited from those movies, in that the grown-up characters (played by Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis) are shown as clueless or pathetic, although Jessica Williams rights the balance a bit as a cool teacher.

Booksmart has a modern-day, open-minded view of race and gender identification, and no character is stereotyped; even one of the two heroes nurses an adorable crush on a cute skater girl. Nevertheless, the movie's goal isn't romance, but rather the complexities of friendship, and of life itself (control and chaos).

Wilde's achievement could have been mainly character-based and dialogue heavy, but her work behind the camera is dynamic, exciting, and alive, incorporating musical numbers, singing & dancing, stop-motion animation, and some bravura camera moves and editing. For those currently in high school, and for anyone else who remembers it, Booksmart has the potential to become a classic of the genre.

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