“Booksmart” is directed by Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and stars Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Justified) and Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as two academic besties who feel the need to let themselves have some fun, which is something that according to them, they have failed to do throughout their four years of high school. And as the movie suggests, the two carry the urge to have such fun in just a day away from their graduation.
I saw a trailer for “Booksmart” back in March. And when I saw it, I got a mixed first impression, because I didn’t become attached to the main duo in the two provided minutes. But the concept became increasingly interesting as the trailer came to a close, and it did have one or two funny lines in it. So yeah, I was kinda onboard. Then as the movie’s release date got closer and closer, I noticed all sorts of press screenings and overwhelmingly positive reactions that the idea of wanting to see this movie only became more front and center. In fact, going into “Booksmart,” it felt like I was going to see “Blockers” mixed with a buddy cop film. Granted, everyone seems to be comparing this movie to Judd Apatow’s “Superbad,” but I haven’t seen “Superbad.” I want to see it, but I just haven’t got around to it. Maybe when I pick up the Blu-ray I’ll give it a go. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t still slightly concerned, because the marketing also gave me an impression that this would be like a propaganda piece because you had all of these female leaders in one clip of the movie. I don’t really have a problem with that, but it also gave me the impression that this movie was just gonna go ahead and say “F*CK MEN!” the entire time. Luckily, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a joke towards the end of the film about the typical “straight white male” that I thought was utterly hilarious. You’ll know it when you see it. And for those of you who are new around here, this is coming from a straight white male.
I mentioned the hype for this movie, and while I know that the comedy genre tends to put out more disposable movies compared to genres like period pieces and screw it, I’ll be biased, science fiction. There is one thing that got me intrigued, and that is the high Rotten Tomatoes score. From a critical perspective, I recall seeing it at 100% at one point. Right now, it’s at 98%. Then I saw a couple of people in the industry such as Ryan Reynolds reacting to the movie on social media with immensely positive thoughts.
As for my overall impression of the movie itself, it was pretty well done. In fact, from a filmmaking perspective, this is better than I ever could have anticipated. I seriously mean that because there’s this one clip with a long take that as far as straight-up comedies go, can probably qualify as a cinematic achievement. But speaking of comedy, not all the jokes land. There’s a lot that do, but it’s not perfect.
In fact, at the beginning, there’s one joke that not only manages to get a head-raising laugh from me, but I thought it was also an effective way to establish one particular character’s personality. If only more jokes were that funny in the movie. In fact, when it comes to personalities, the main duo has great chemistry together.
Yeah, I could totally buy Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein’s friendship, I can buy that the two are academics that put work before partying. Even when there are instances when they shy away from that connected academic/professional personality, their chemistry still manages to work for the way this movie tends to flow. These two are brainiacs who wouldn’t mind having fun, and manage to have each other’s back. In fact, when it comes to how their relationship plays out, it kind of hit me to the core. There are some ways that I’d say that this movie reminded me of a movie that I did not even think I would compare this to, specifically “Lady Bird.” I won’t give much away for either of these movies, and if you ask me from a critical perspective, I’d say this movie is nowhere near as excellent as “Lady Bird,” but it did remind me of that film.
Why was this movie off and on in terms of humor? Well, there are various moments and utterances of dialogue that had me cracking up, but one example of when the movie would slide down a hill is from a recurring gag. There’s this one character played by Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd (American Horror Story, Scream Queens) who was kind of funny when the movie first started out, but she had this one thing that kept happening in the movie that was part of what made her funny, but the more it happens, the more it feels like I’m being beaten over the head. The ongoing gag did not insult my intelligence, which if anything, since this film is called “BOOKSMART,” I think it would be the most ironic thing in the entire history of the universe if that actually happened, but it was just a slight hindrance to my experience. Lourd played her character with excellence, but the script didn’t always make her presence worthwhile.
But in all honesty, when I first saw the currently incessant TV spots, I was given the impression that while this was definitely going to have elements of a coming of age story, I thought it was going to be a lot goofier than it actually turned out. This felt a lot like “Tag,” where there’s tons of humor intact, but it’s all surrounded by one emotional punch. Maybe it partially has to do with timing because I graduated from high school from last year, and in a way, despite not having that many friends I hang out with, I can kind of relate to the relationship of the two main characters. I’m not saying I’m entirely like them, because I definitely worked hard in high school, but I feel like there are certain points that I felt the need to rebel. Because let’s face it, high school sometimes felt robotic. It felt like what was being taught to me at times was being taught through an assembly line-like process. And when I left high school, I honestly couldn’t be happier. Yes, I’ll miss my friends that I made along the way who I may only talk to through social media in the future. But I won’t miss the times when I went through various obstacles of feeling like I didn’t fit in. I won’t miss the subjects I regretted learning about. I also won’t miss what was quite honestly, a beyond underwhelming senior year. Sure, it had its moments, but as I was becoming an adult, there were times when I felt like I was occasionally getting my own kiddie table. Unlike the main characters of Amy and Molly, I didn’t go to any single party that my classmates flocked to (and yet I somehow won Best Dancer). I don’t regret my choices, but the fact that I’m being treated like an adult in college only makes me appreciate that concept much more.
And speaking of college, I can honestly say that this movie may become increasingly relevant giving what’s happening in the news. Because there’s a segment of the movie where one of the main characters is talking to people who may present themselves as idiots, but somehow managed to get into places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. This movie premiered at South by Southwest this year, which happened in March, but if this movie had more time to shoot and release perhaps during the holiday season, they could have probably added something to the script about the college admissions scandal that’s been going on. Maybe we’ll save it for a sequel. I would not mind seeing one.
In the end, “Booksmart,” might not be getting an A from me, but it should not frown upon its final, respectable results. I will say that when it comes to the ending of the film, that is one of my core problems that is probably going to stick with me for some time. If it was slightly rewritten, I would have appreciated it more. Because this movie towards the end was going in one direction and I admired it for going in such a direction. However, the last bits of dialogue change that. If you ask me, the exchange was kind of corny and almost left a bad taste in my mouth. It was somewhat out of left field and unexpected. If the movie ended JUST before that, I think the ending would have been solid, and one of the better ones I’ve seen this year. But no! Let’s throw a curveball in there! Wow. Back to back sentences with baseball terms, isn’t that a hoot? Although to be serious, “Booksmart” is funny, charming, and definitely gets me interested for whatever else Olivia Wilde has up her sleeves in terms of her directing career. I’m going to give “Booksmart” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone if you noticed anything different about my blog, you might notice my domain. While I’m still calling this blog Scene Before, if you ever want to tell your friends about it, tell them to go to http://www.flicknerd.com. Why flicknerd.com? Because nerds rule and flicks are sick, that’s why! As for new content, I am steadily approaching post #300. For that post, I will be providing an update on my Blu-ray collection! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Booksmart?” What did you think about it? Or, since “Aladdin” just came out and I’m willing to bet most of my viewers saw that this weekend as opposed to “Booksmart,” is Will Smith a good genie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!