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"BOOKSMART"
(2019) (Kaityln Dever, Beanie Feldstein) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Two high school seniors, who've neglected their social lives in order to get good grades, decide to attend a wild party the night before graduation.
PLOT:
It's the day before graduation, and Amy (KAITLYN DEVER) and Molly (BEANIE FELDSTEIN) are best friends who've pretty much neglected their high school social lives in order to get good grades and be accepted into the best colleges. Thus, Molly, who's the class president, is floored when she learns that the likes of heavy partygoers such as Nick (MASON GOODING), Theo (EDUARDO FRANCO) and Annabelle (MOLLY GORDON) a.k.a. "Triple A" (so named for the promiscuous roadside "assistance" she provides high school boys) have also been accepted into similar colleges.

Accordingly, she convinces Amy that they must attend a big party Nick is throwing and cut loose for once. The only problem is that they don't know where it's being held and thus accidentally end up on a yacht owned by uber-rich classmate Jared's (SKYLER GISONDO) family. The only other student present is wild girl Gigi (BILLIE LOURD) who somehow manages to end up everywhere Amy and Molly do for the rest of the night.

After a series of other mishaps and wrong turns -- including when they get a ride from Principal Brown (JASON SUDEIKIS) who moonlights as a ridesharing driver and accidentally end up high after another encounter with Gigi -- they call their cool teacher Miss Fine (JESSICA WILLIAMS) who gives them a ride to the party. There, and while Theo hits on that teacher, Molly hopes to get Nick interested in her just as Amy tries to do with Ryan (VICTORIA RUESGA), a girl she hopes is a lesbian like her, unaware that Hope (DIANE SILVERS) is the one who actually has a thing for her.

With things not going as they planned and hoped for, the two friends must maneuver their way through the night and those expectations, not to mention making sure they get to graduation the next day.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
One benefit of social media is the ability to catch up (i.e. investigate and/or spy on) people you once knew in high school but have neither seen nor spoken to in many decades. C'mon, admit it. If you're of a certain age and enough years have passed, you've likely done the same in a curious "whatever happened to" search through a past acquaintance's life.

Usually, the results are, for the most part, unremarkable, but sometimes they're sad and occasionally they're shocking. As in the kids who were once stoners, jerks and otherwise not good students have somehow, seemingly inexplicably, gone on to become notable successes in their post-educational adult lives.

That's the mindset gist of "Booksmart," except that one of its two major characters isn't a forty or fifty-something mom looking up past classmates and reacting in amazement and jealousy. Instead, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) is a high school senior who's forgone any sort of social life in favor of working hard to get into a good college, only to learn the day before graduation that the partygoers, apparent stoners and promiscuous girls have all been accepted into the same caliber schools.

Aghast at this revelation, Molly convinces her best and equally social-less friend, Amy(Kaitlyn Dever), that they must attend the last big blowout party of the year, lest they are proven to have set out on the faulty assumption of being bookworms as the only means to a happy and prosperous life down the road.

Now, to be truly accurate, neither are goody-two-shoes as they gossip about and judge others, often talk like sailors, and openly discuss sexual matters, including pleasuring themselves. But in the view of others, they're sad squares who should be pitied. And with that and the "they got into the same colleges" discovery, Molly is dead set on going out with a bang and taking Amy along for the ride.

And that's what the film -- written by Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman and helmed by actress Olivia Wilde in her directorial debut -- is designed as, a ride through a night of adventures and misadventures as the two girls try to find the big party and possibly hook up with those they've set their eyes on. For Molly, that's her class vice president (Mason Gooding) and for Amy, that's another girl (Victoria Ruesga) who may or may not be a lesbian like her.

In that overall regard, it's following in the footsteps of other one-night, end of high school escapade films going as far back as "American Graffiti" to the far more recent and comparable, if lead gender opposite, "Superbad." And having two young women as the leads is what sets this offering apart from most high school-based, coming of age comedies.

Feldstein (who just so happens to be the sister to Jonah Hill who starred in "Superbad") and Dever have good comedic chemistry together, and Wilde and her quartet of female scribes give them some funny material with which to work. That ranges from them unintentionally ending up high and hallucinating that they're self-aware plastic dolls to carjacking a pizza delivery guy using their hair as partial masks and having repeated run-ins with a wild party girl (Billie Lourd) who somehow manages to show up everywhere they do over the course of the night.

Of course, not everything works -- there's a brief stop with their theater classmates holding a murder mystery party that feels flat -- and I would have preferred that the various escapades and misadventures had built on each other to create something truly hilarious rather than feeling somewhat episodic in nature.

Nevertheless, the leads are what make the comedy moments and the overall film work (with the help of a good supporting cast), and while I don't think it's the comedy masterpiece that some are claiming, it's funny, engaging and entertaining enough to earn a 6 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed May 1, 2019 / Posted May 24, 2019


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