Molly & Amy's Final High School Lesson: Booksmart
Best friends Molly and Amy put academics ahead of all other pursuits during their high school years. They made getting into a top tier university a priority, and each got what they wanted. In Booksmart, however, they face a reality that never occurred to them. In spite of being elected class president and earning class valedictorian, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) was not the envy of her peers, for she and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) spent little time with extracurricular activities or socializing with their classmates. On the final day of their senior year, Molly happens to overhear that most of their classmates also gained admittance into to top tier universities. As a result, Molly and Amy decide they would like to join their classmates in the fun they'd denied themselves.
They know that the senior class Vice President, Nick (Mason Gooding), has planned a bash that most seniors will attend. However, the teens have no idea where Nick lives. They turn to Jared (Skyler Gisondo), the one senior who likes all his classmates, for help. However, he has a party of his own on a yacht, but the girls find the only other classmate there is Jared's girlfriend Gigi (Billie Lourd). Uninterested in this scene, they call an Uber to take them to a pizza place, where they beg a delivery driver to take them ti Nick's. They take another detour to a senior murder mystery party hosted by the drama-loving George (Noah Galvin) and his drama-loving friend Alan (Austin Crute). Finally, they call on a favorite teacher of theirs, Miss Fine (Jessica Williams), who not only knows about the party, but takes them their and loans them a change of clothes. The results for them are mixed, and it leads to a heated exchange between the friends.
Booksmart marks the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, who follows other actors like Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Jonah Hill (Mid90s) in going behind the camera to make a coming-of-age film. Booksmart brought back memories of the end of my high school days. An old friend of mine and I made our way to a local beach, which these days lies on casino land along Lake Michigan. Like Molly and Amy, we got to spend a little time with people whose faces we saw, but different classes and other circumstances didn't bring us together until the night following our final day of classes senior year. While I didn't lead a secondary school career that was as singularly focused as the ones led by Molly and Amy, I spent most of high school days finding the right balance between studies, extracurriculars, and work - and finally succeeded late in high school. On the other hand, I cannot relate to the idea of trying to get into the top colleges in the country. My parents expected me to get a college education, but they couldn't afford to pay any of my way, including the local extension campus that I eventually attended. As a result, I thought that Wilde created a generally realistic portrait of high school life, though the comedy-laden script got a little too crazy in the climactic parts. It's one thing for the girls to discover new things about their peers, but their final moments before graduation seem inspired by the the wildest moments of John Hughes's teen flicks.
Feldstein and Dever, though, shine as the film's leads. Feldstein, who's Hill's real-life sister and part of the cast of Lady Bird, takes the lead in making the most of her last night of high school by taking the lead on overcoming all obstacles to get to the big senior party. The detours push her to take the quest to get there to an obsession. Dever, as Amy, lives a life where she knows few people besides her parents (Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow) and Molly very well. All three of them know Amy's attracted to other women, especially the skateboarder Ryan (Victoria Ruesga). She hopes to reveal her crush once she arrives at Nick's, but things change. In a moment of feeling sorry for herself, she meets Hope (Diana Silvers), but that encounter also becomes problematic. Her imminent departure creates anxiety about the things that are about to change. The rest of the cast does fine in their small roles. Besides those mentioned, Wilde's real-life partner, Jason Sudeikis, plays Principal Brown, who'd always encouraged the girls to enjoy themselves a little. The girls also learn that Mr. Brown has a second job that brings them together for a time. Other Saturday Night Live alums that appear besides Sudeikis and Forte include as Mike O'Brien as an angry pizza driver, and Maya Rudolph lends her voice to a meditative recording Molly has.
High school should be seen as a unique experience. It's a time that bridges a person's childhood and adulthood. Academics are an integral part of those four years, but they should not be as all-consuming as Molly and Amy have made them. Many lessons come through books and formal education, but others come from learning about others and caring about them. Booksmart gives two teen friends one shot to enjoy the activities their peers made the time to enjoy. This lesson may come late in this phase of their lives, but it's a lesson Molly and Amy can take with them in their pursuit of higher education.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Booksmart three stars. Closing the book on high school.
© 2019 Pat Mills