Every generation seems to get its own raunchy coming-of-age comedy – like Porky’s, American Pie and Superbad – so actress-turned-first-time-feature director Olivia Wilde delivers this for millennials.
On the last day at Los Angeles’ Crockett High School, snarky best friends/brainiacs Molly (Beanie Feldstein, recognizable as Jonah Hill’s sister) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), accepted at Yale and Columbia, respectively, suddenly realize that – by concentrating only on their grades – they’ve missed out on all the fun.
It seems their playful, slacker peers are also headed to elite schools or great jobs. “They did two things,” Molly marvels, meaning studying and partying, while “We’re the assholes who did only one!”
Determined to spend their last night before graduation making up for lost time, valedictorian Molly convinces social-activist Amy to embark on a raucous evening they’ll never forget. That means crashing the pool party hosted by hunky Nick (Mason Gooding), taking hallucinogenic drugs and experimenting with sex.
Shy, socially awkward Amy only agrees because she has a lesbian crush on skater-punk Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and winds up on the bathroom floor with ultra-cool Hope (Diana Silvers). Plus there’s ethereal space-cadet Gigi (Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds’ granddaughter) and lonely rich guy Jarek (Skyler Gisondo).
As it turns out, their Lyft driver is their moonlighting school principal (Jason Sudeikis) and their hip teacher (Jessica Williams) hooks up with a classmate.
Sensitively scripted by writer/producer Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel, the dialogue and vignettes ring true – and authenticity goes a long way. The characters are recklessly honest and achingly vulnerable, particularly when they discuss gender and sexuality.
Made even more topical because of the recent college cheating scandal known as Operation Varsity Blues, the movie questions the real value of education, advocating finding worth beyond categories and labels.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Booksmart” is a savvy, surreal 7 that, ultimately, turns out to be quite satisfying on the subject of female friendship.