Every now and then a film will appear that will be heralded as ‘the return of the comedy’. Admittedly, it does feel that in recent years there’s been less new comedy films in circulation. These blue moon films will arrive with the weight of critical acclaim which will undoubtedly impact audience expectation. Booksmart, however, is a film that deserves all the critical acclaim it has received so far – and then some. Because what Olivia Wilde has created with her directorial debut is the film that us nerdy girls didn’t realise we needed or wanted, but one that we truly deserved. This is Superbad for us Lisa Simpson idolisers, a film that truly *gets* those of us who spent – or are spending – their teenage years favouring prose over bros.
What truly makes this film great is that the film is not about ‘fixing’ it’s lead characters, there’s no judgement or condemnation at who they are and how they have spent their high school years. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are both comfortable about their intellect and academic achievements. They don’t hide who they truly are. And whilst their decision to cram four years of party-orientated fun into one night, on the eve of graduation, may be triggered by the realisation that their peers partied AND did well academically – we never laugh at them for this. The film treats them with the utmost understanding, the thought processes behind the choices they made are clear. They’re not judged for deeply caring about their grades or their futures, nor are they judged for their close friendship.
In fact, Amy and Molly’s friendship may have instantly gone to the top of the pile for best depictions of female friendship ever. They idolise each other, they don’t ‘just’ talk about relationships and they always have each other’s backs. They’re on-screen together for the bulk of the film and it’s just joyous. And supremely funny. As in, laugh out loud funny on a frequent basis. The kind of basis where you’re so busy laughing at one joke that you miss the other so you feel compelled to watch it again and you know that joke you missed will be just as good as the one you did catch. Yeah. It’s that funny.
There’s a great ensemble cast supporting them, all of whom are sketched out with depth in way that doesn’t happen nearly enough in comedies. Or films in general in all fairness. We feel like we know these people, and we probably went to school with people just like them. More often than not, ‘endearing’ has negative connotations, in line with being saccharine, that’s not the case here. The story, the players and the two leads are all endearing in the very best of ways – warm, funny, charming and bloody lovely.
Few films have captured the teen experience in such an understanding, sympathetic and kindhearted way. Whilst it’s accurate to describe Booksmart as one of the best teen films in years, and it’ll probably be the best teen film of this year (or at least rivalled with Eight Grade) it’s also comfortably up there as one of the best films of the year full stop.
Booksmart is in UK cinemas from 31st May.