Do not bother comparing Booksmart with other shows about high school — like Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, like Superbad, or even Happy Days. Booksmart stands firmly on its own as an homage to any young woman who eschewed parties for exam-cramming, who pooh-poohed goofing off for running the student council, who’s denigrated party animals.
Molly, Class of ’19, did all those things. She is going to Yale. She is abashed when she finds out that her classmates, for all their doofus behavior, are going to Ivy League schools, too. Waaaaaah! Well! “We are smart and fun,” Molly declares. She is going to have one wild night at one wild party.
She goes not alone: luckily, she has her dear, dear queer best friend Amy — think Laverne and Shirley, Lucy and Ethel, Anthony and Stanton. These latest boon companions are very much not mean girls. They just have one problem: finding Jared’s soiree.
So Booksmart becomes a picaresque adventure with the heroines in matching onesies to find that party. Beanie Feldstein, a stand-out in Ladybird, gives Molly award-worthy comedic moxie. Kaitlyn Dever, from Justified, adds silver to the buddy role. They are supported by a remarkable cast, including Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Billie Lourde (Carrie Fisher’s daughter), and Jessica Williams.
They all manage to dance with the laughter-wringing, teen-understanding words written by a witty sisterhood: Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Susanna Fogel. Unfortunately, the idiolect spoken by the Class of 2019 is not always comprehensible, a fact not aided by the sound production itself.
Olivia Wilde, known heretofore as an actor, directs Booksmart with swirling close-ups. The pace is fast, the wit is superior, the movie is smart and fun!
I’m Martha K. Baker. From the Grand Center Arts District, this is 88.1, KDHX, St. Louis.