SXSW 2019: Booksmart

Kaitlyn Dever stars as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release.

With a strong focus on female friendship, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, is the next great classic high school comedy.

It’s very easy to see the influence of a filmmaker like Amy Heckerling in watching this film.  She’s the filmmaker who directed both Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless.  These two films inspired a generation and Booksmart is sure to follow.

Both Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) may be best friends but they’re also the people in high school who never bothered going to parties.  They’re the ones who are focusing on graduating and moving onto the next thing in life.  For Amy, this means taking a year off to spend time in Botswana.  As for Molly, it means attending college at Yale as she continues her path to the Supreme Court.  It’s not surprising that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s photo is in Molly’s room.  When it comes time for graduation, they decide to make up for a few years of missing out on all the fun.  Easier said than done, of course.

Both Amy and Molly make the decision to attend the massive high school party on graduation eve.  One such reason is because Amy has a crush on Ryan (Victoria Ruesga).  Amy being a lesbian isn’t a big deal and this is one awesome thing to love about Booksmart.  More often than not, it feels like so many filmmakers decide to make coming out such a big deal.  We’ve reached a point in which being LGBTQ is normal so I’m happy to see that Booksmart has adopted this normalcy.

The problem for the duo that they don’t know where Nick’s (Mason Gooding) aunt lives and getting the information isn’t going to come easy. Regardless of which, just getting to the party is half the fun.  Booksmart isn’t the first film nor will it be the last in which the journey from point A to point B is a comedy of errors.  What makes it so much fun along the way are the performances in the film.  Take Billie Lourd for example.  She delivers a scene-stealing performance as Gigi as she always pops up when we least expect it!  Lourd gives off a Cher-esque vibe to her character with multiple wardrobe changes.

Nobody really expects their Uber or Lyft driver to be their principal but sure enough Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) picks them up in his car.  Is this supposed to be some sort of social commentary on how we don’t pay our educators enough money?  If this is the case, I entirely get it!  But I digress.

With Allison Jones handling duties as casting director, there are some future stars just waiting to have there careers blow up.  Among them are Diana Silvers, who plays Hope.  Jones has cast so many future stars in film and television that one trusts her with the job.

This is a film about female friendship at its core.  Amy and Molly have a strong relationship.  They’re the type in which you just know that they’ll be best friends for life.  It’s also a film that owes so much to not just the great high school comedies but also the buddy cop movies.  The funny thing about this homage is that these two get along just fine.  They don’t seem like the mismatched cops.  What’s so great about having Olivia Wilde behind the camera is that we get a sense of her understanding who these characters are.  If you’ve ever been through high school, you’ve dealt with the awful labels.

What Bridesmaids represents for women in their 30s is what Booksmart represents for a new generation.

DIRECTOR:  Olivia Wilde
SCREENWRITERS:  Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman
CAST:  Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Noah Galvin, Diana Silvers, Mason Gooding, Victoria Ruesga, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Jessica Williams, with Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis

Booksmart held its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Headliners program.  Booksmart opens in theaters on May 24, 2019. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.