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  Booksmart Get The Party Started
Year: 2019
Director: Olivia Wilde
Stars: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Austin Crute, Noah Galvin, Maya Rudolph
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have been fast friends throughout high school, and now, on the last day before graduation, they feel they have succeeded in a job well done by attaining the best grades to get into the best universities in America. They have given over their lives to study for the past few years, and now can reap the benefits - but what if the benefits had their drawbacks? None of their fellow students have any time for them, mostly because they have never spent any time with them, and when Molly discovers that these party-hard peers have got the places they wanted anyway, despite not studying as hard as her and Amy, a terrible realisation hits...

Booksmart was something of an anomaly, as along with Eighth Grade which was released the same year, it was trumpeted as the great coming of age movie of 2019, an obvious relation of the runaway hit Superbad, and not simply because Feldstein was Jonah Hill's younger sister. Great things were expected of both films, yet despite terrific reviews, somehow they never caught on with any but a cult audience, and the predictions these would be much-discussed box office bonanzas were proven wrong as they underperformed and for many, slipped under their radars completely. In this case, was there just no room for another Superbad, or was it the female element putting them off?

Those who did see it and did not like it wrote off this as a pale copy of the previous movie, only with girls instead of boys as the focus, and they more or less had the same basic plot, teens trying to get into a party and let their hair down for one night as the peer pressure was instructing them to do. There was also an essential sympathy for the characters' naivety which displayed an almost parental benevolence, sort of saying "Let them have their fun today, for tomorrow they will have a lot of growing up to do," though both films ended by hinting they may not need to do as much growing up, once they were adults, as perhaps society was telling them they were responsible to be carrying out.

One thing that Superbad got right was casting a very age-specific group of young performers, so it at least came across as authentic as far as that went, yet Booksmart opted for an older cast, not incredibly overage or anything, but it was difficult to ignore most of these actors looked to be in their twenties, and that did make a difference. Not so much that it ruined the experience, but you were always aware there was a certain artificiality to the proceedings which, to be fair, director Olivia Wilde and her team of screenwriters would embrace at regular intervals, including but not exclusive to fantasy sequences such as the lead pair eating spiked strawberries and hallucinating themselves as Barbie dolls, or a sweet bit where Molly imagines being swept off her feet - literally - by her crush Nick (Mason Gooding).

Amy had a likewise bit later on where she has a near-ecstatic swim in the pool at the party, believing she will hook up with Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), the girl of her dreams, which leads to enormous frustration and embarrassment as the film was reluctant to allow its denizens to have it all their own way if it meant they could learn a life lesson to chalk up to experience. Let's not forget this was a comedy, and it was one without villains despite initial appearances to the contrary, where everyone wound up understandable and even relatable, so that generosity of spirit was welcome, but a comedy lives or dies on its jokes: did this hold up? To an extent, yes, there were amusing lines and situations, but they did tend to get lost in the endless scenes of Amy and Molly bigging each other up in confidence boost pep talks, simply because nobody else is interested in doing it for them; by the fifth time around this did grow wearing. Yet it was difficult to dislike Booksmart unless you were truly determined, since it wanted to be liked so much. Music by Dan the Automator.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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