Olivia Wilde enjoyed her breakthrough acting role in The OC back in 2004 and returns to the teen scene with Booksmart, her first film behind the camera. The plot centres around nerdy BFFs Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on the cusp of high school graduation. Feeling as though it’s been all work and no play in their 12thgrade, they decide to attend the biggest party in the neighbourhood to see off their senior year in style.
If the aforementioned premise sounds pretty familiar, it’s because it is. We’ve seen youth rebellion unfold across ‘one wild night’ on the big screen countless times before, and yet Wilde ticks the teen movie trope boxes with freshness and flair. Bringing playful progression to the genre formula through its killer soundtrack and inventive visuals, this effort is at the top of its class. One standout sequence makes comment on the serious subject of society’s expectations around female body image but achieves this in a smart and satirical fashion.
With a very similar story and style, it’s easy to label this piece ‘Superbad with girls’ and having Jonah Hill’s sister in one of the leading roles just adds to this comparison. Beanie Feldstein is clearly her brother’s sister in terms of her on-point comedic delivery, but alongside her excellent co-star Dever, the core dynamic differs from the juvenile hi-jinks we usually see in bromance comedies. Molly and Amy are supportive of one another and always have each other’s back, and their close-knit camaraderie is a joy to watch.
The characters we follow are brilliantly naïve and still have a lot to learn as they transition to the next chapter of their lives, but they’re presented in an assured and confidently hilarious directorial debut from Wilde who has clearly done her homework. Booksmart passes with flying colours.