Booksmart is a self aware, sisterhood version of Superbad for woke America, and that is not a bad thing. We’re trying to branch out here a bit on Upstream and include a wider variety of genres and choices for the undecided viewer.
Directed by actress and activist, Olivia Wilde (Quorra in Tron) it is a wild and diverse ride through the last hurrah of high school for two over achievers. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever of Unbelievable) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein of Lady Bird) are faced with graduating and never having had even a single act of indiscretion. Deciding that they have one night to correct this situation these girls leapfrog from one impossible mess to another searching for the perfect graduation party to attend. Both Kaitlyn and Beanie deserve high marks for their sincere and hysterical performances.
The cast is filled with outstanding actors turning the typical high-schooler tropes on their ear. Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding (Picard), Skyler Gisondo (Amazing Spider-Man), Molly Gordon (Orange is the New Black) all turned in surprisingly different takes on tired teen drama stereotypes. Scene stealers Austin Crute and Billie Lourd (Carrie Fischer’s daughter and Lieutenant Connix in Star Wars) pushed things over the top every time they took the screen. There is nothing new here as far as the story goes, movies like The Hangover, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and even Sixteen Candles have all taken that physical and character journey intertwined approach to telling a story. It is the way Booksmart attacks its subject matter that makes it witty and refreshingly fun to watch. Much more in line with Mean Girls and Heathers, director Wilde made it a point to make this an anti-coming of age, coming of age movie. The diverse characters were allowed to explore many of the more current hot topic issues facing youth like gender identity, sexuality, and privilege without stopping to make a big deal out of the point. I loved how natural everyone seemed even though they are playing larger than life characters. While you might think you know where the film is ending up, the path it takes getting there is still fun to watch.
April Napier (The Cell, Lady Bird) is an extremely talented costume designer and obviously had some fun with the wardrobe in this film. Everyone had very character defining looks (including some of the surprise cameos) and it made the dizzying amount of characters standout uniquely from one another. Shot by Jason McCormick (Zodiac) I loved the over saturated color palettes used. The night time shots had a clarity often missing from other movies. Most of Jason’s resume is videos and shorts and I’m looking forward to seeing more full length projects from this promising cinematographer.
All in all I highly recommend the fun and well put together comedic romp on HULU. Let us know if there is anything you feel might be overlooked and deserves more attention on Upstream 🙂