BOOK SMART- Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

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We all went to school with a single reason in our minds – to get an education that will help build our life, find a good job, and be successful. Of course, colleges and the universities are just the beginning and there is no time to have fun at all, take it easy, or look around to see what our peers would do. Imagine, at some point, you wake up to find yourself at the podium to receive your diploma after having worked tirelessly, never missed a single book from the local library and look at those who never did what you have done, yet still graduating.

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are the most intelligent students, superstars in the High School but find themselves puzzled on the eve of their high school graduation when they realized that they have studied and worked too hard and missed the fun high school offers outside of its classrooms. To ensure they did not fall behind, the two are determined to catch up by embarking on a one-night journey that will deliver a bonus package of everything they had no idea they could experience – from drugs to robbery, from questioning their morals, what is right and what is wrong, and the limits of one night could deliver that was endless.

Both Amy and Molly are fascinating characters. As soon as we meet them, we can tell how much they are admired by Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) and the trust they have earned from their teacher Miss Fine (Jessica Williams). When the film starts, we realize the level of their intelligence when it comes to education books can provide, but shortly after, we see their lack of experience in the social life of during high school. By looking at their peers and learning that despite them not studying much but yet managing to get admitted to colleges of their choice, the two declare a protest against who they are and turn into two individuals who will soon learn to live nightlife to the fullest.

Their goal is to attend Nick’s (Mason Gooding) party that he threw at his aunt’s big house, but on their way they meet their classmate, Jared (always funny Skyler Gisondo), hilarious Gigi (Billie Lourd), and many more as another way of learning about the things they were not aware of. As they go through the unknown path, they deliver a hilarious and sometimes strange result that will both surprise and stun the audience, while some may be a bit shocked because this movie is about reading between the lines which many may not realize.

Written by a group of all-female writers including Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman, and directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is a decent, but not so excellent coming-of-age story of two friends. However, it has one interesting point that made me write this piece – it’s never about going out or staying in a high school. The film does not try to convey messages such as do drugs, work less, and play hard. Its main point is that there is no need to focus on unnecessary things the way Molly and Amy did. Of course, they were intelligent, they know everything about everything – but missed one important lesson that they will have to learn over the course of the journey.

In the end, the speech delivered by Molly will sum up the main reason that forced her to go through the crazy night – the night that will make her love her peers more, respect them and appreciate their way of living life, studying and having fun. People are indeed different but in the end, they all have the same path to enter, with or without faults. And we are not in the position to judge anyone but rather cheer for them and be supportive no matter what. Because the education life provides is sometimes more important than that of the book – because it can be a great guide for many things as experience is a key that can navigate us throughout the years we live on this Earth.

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Ulkar Alakbarova

Ulkar Alakbarova has been writing about movies since childhood. She loves black-and-white cinema. She worked as an independent film journalist in Azerbaijan. Starting in 2013, she has worked as a Toronto-based film critic/interviewer. She is a founder of www.moviemovesme.com and regularly covers major film festivals, such as TIFF, Fantasia Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Hot Docs and Sundance.