Booksmart is number 18 on the Guardian’s top 50 films of 2019 and has been a massive hit with audiences, gaining an audience rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Beenie Feldstein had a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and the writers have a BAFTA nomination for their screenplay. The story follows Amy (Kaitlin Dever) and Molly (Feldstein), two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, suddenly realise that they should have worked less and played more. Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night.
In Olivia Wilde’s slick, joyous directorial debut, the actor turned film-maker gives Molly and Amy a chance to prove that they’re ‘smart and fun’ once and for all. It is clever, and self-consciously so. Booksmart’s dialogue is fast, funny and feminist, sometimes to a fault, though a surreal stop-motion animated sequence that imagines the girls as Barbie dolls (their worst nightmare) works well. Dever and Feldstein sell the pair’s charged, codependent dynamic, the former exuding a quiet confidence as the straight man to the latter’s bossy, brassy, overcompensating comedian.
Wilde expertly modulates the giddy highs and bittersweet lows of being a teenager, as demonstrated in the way the film’s house party climax crests and then crashes. Wilde cuts between Molly and Amy as they flirt with their respective crushes, luring the audience into a false sense of security by registering each accidentally-on-purpose touch as a sign of encouragement. Knees knock together and then, as Perfume Genius’s Slip Away plays, stomachs drop.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall