Wednesday, June 05, 2019


My high-school experience was rather muted, for better or worse, which often makes it hard for me to connect to movies about teenagers. I'm always wondering if it was really that dramatic for everyone else or if every movie is just taking crazy liberties because the idea of that time as an overheated pressure-cooker where anything could happen is just so good.

Whatever the case may be, I dig this one; it's about smart kids that doesn't fall into the trap a lot of things about smart kids do - it name-checks Gilmore Girls in a way that implies that, yeah, it was great, but if had its flaws while young women and movies about them have evolved a bit in the past decade - and it feels contemporary without also being incomprehensible teen-stuff to older viewers.

And it's funny as heck.

One of the really funny young members of the cast is Kaitlyn Dever, who looked really familiar but young enough that I figured I probably hadn't seen her in anything. But, it turns out, I had, just a month or two ago; she's in Them That Follow, and I really should have recognized her in that because she had a recurring part in Justified where she also played against Walton Goggins. She's really good, although I wonder if she's going to be like Amanda Seyfried where she's a little tough to recognize once she loses her baby face. At any rate - she's good, although so is the whole cast of this thing, and I really look forward to seeing what they all do over the next few years.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 June 2019 in Somerville Theatre #5 (first-run, DCP)

Booksmart is a loud enough from the start to get those in the audience old enough to be its characters' parents cranky, but that is perhaps the way it should be, even with kids who don't initially seem the type. It earns that noise, though, growing into a tremendously funny movie that manages the neat trick of getting friendlier and bigger-hearted even as it gets sharper (and stranger) as it goes. Even us uncool old people should be having a ball by the end.

The girls who don't seem the type are Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), the inseparable top two students in the class of 2019, which graduates tomorrow. They've got big plans for the future and have been heads-down pursuing them, so when Molly discovers that some of the other kids who weren't so single-minded also got into good schools. That revelation has her determined that the pair make it to their classmate Nick's big end-of-year party, even if they have no idea where it is and have been so asocial that nobody is inclined to answer their texts.

Though high school cliques are obviously a real thing and a lot of kids that age can get hyper-focused and specialized, movies have been overdoing it for so long that it's been a frequent target of parody for twenty-odd years, and Booksmart creaks a bit as it establishes a large ensemble of broadly-written characters that all seem to be about an inch deep. That's part of why it's tremendously satisfying to have the writers flip the script and crush Molly's snobbery early; it not only sets the pair on a path to ridiculous misadventures without having to have things tied too closely to a goal, but makes the audience look a bit closer at everyone in the movie even while they're being very silly. You know from the start that this isn't all anybody is.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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