Your weekly streaming pick has arrived! Now streaming on Hulu, Booksmart is the feature directorial debut of Olivia Wilde. It’s widly pitched as the ‘female Superbad.’ While some similarities exist the passage of time won’t be so harsh on this coming of age comedy.
Two academically obsessed high school seniors are onthe verge of graduation. They are best friends who have essentially shunned a social life in exhange for grades and the chance to go to prestigous colleges. When Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) find out that their fun loving classmates are getting the same, if not better, opportunities they decide they need a night out. A night to party and be irresponsible. They want to cram an entire high school experience into once loaded evening. Not knowing how to navigate this world and having a slew of ridiculous classmates their evening quickly goes off the rails.
Feldstein and Dever aren’t quite household names, but they should look familiar to you. The young talents have done a number of great projects. Feldstein has been acting a long time. She had notable roles in Neighbors 2, Lady Bird, and What We Do In The Shadows (series). She’s also playing Monica Lewinsky in 2020’s American Crime Story. Most of her roles are based in comedy, but Booksmart turns up the dramatics at times and Feldstein rises to the occasion with great success.
Booksmart is currently streaming on Hulu
Co-lead Kaitlyn Dever’s performance throughout Booksmart in relation to her career is the opposite of her co-stars. Dever has done some heavy dramas in her career including Detroit, Spectacular Now, and Short Term 12. She delivers a very natural performance as an openly gay teen without letting that one major piece of the character’s personality define her and her arc. It’s just part of who the fleshed out character is.
The advertising did a great job at delivering some laughs and shining a light on the leads. It did a disservice to the supporting cast who really round out the world. Jason Sudekis has a minor, but hilarious role as the school principal who turns up at a crucial, unexpected time. Skyler Gisondo, who basically stole Santa Clarita Diet, plays a rich kid who tries too hard to fit in. Billie Lourd delivers a comedic performance that reminds us that she can be funny. Remember her time in Scream Queens (a show that only ever had one season)?
Diana Silvers doesn’t have much screen time but she delivers a low key, weighty performance. Her character is a crucial crux for Amy but what’s not said and what’s not shown about her character make her one of the most interesting players in the piece.
Lisa Kudrom and Will Forte get cameos as well.
The strength in the leads has everything to do with their talent. The strength in the script gives the talented cast something to dig into. The team of female writer’s deliver a fresh feeling comedy that plays well on familiar tropes. Only a few gags go too large or are too over the top. These are easily forgiven with the rest of the project coming together.
Booksmart is a movie that will sit with you for a bit after it’s done. Not the most common experience for a comedy. The laughs are big but there are real characters with a real story here. Wilde shows she knows what she’s doing as every laugh is leveled by a dramatic moment and every tear jerking scene is punctuated with something to let the audience know everything is going to be fine. Here’s to hoping Wilde has more projects in the work, I’d personally like to see her tackle some different genres since her acting career was so diverse.