Director: Olivia Wilde
Staring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein
"Jonah Hill's sister stars in a less funny Superbad" is something I feel a certain sub-culture of the internet will be saying about 2019's Booksmart. Now while that certainly is more than a little demeaning, it's not without a particular degree of accuracy.
Both films are coming-of-age stories that centre around two best friends and their quest to shed their geeky high school personas by partying hard, with the themes of recreational substance use and virginity-losing that are par for the course with these types of things. They're also at very different ends of the comedy spectrum: Superbad made me laugh more, but Booksmart (with it's rather apt title) had me thinking more.
Now, maybe that's entirely down to me. I watched Booksmart just two short days ago, through the analytical eyes of a dabbling internet critic; in contrast, I watched Superbad through the eyes and anxieties of a cripplingly shy teenager, who thought that (immature cops aside) this was really the only way to do what they were doing.
They were weird and different from the kids around them, which made them outcasts, freely persecuted. And even though they only had each other, they didn't really like one another, not really. I always got the impression, particularly from Michael Cera, that they became friends to make the best of a bad situation, it was that or have nobody. They represented a toxic friendship before we ever started using that word to describe interpersonal relationships.
Booksmart differs because from the very moment these characters share a scene together they get each other. They didn't just glom onto each other because there was no one else; it's because they have real chemistry and complement each other well.
Not only that, but all the supporting characters are more, well, supporting. The whole world this film takes place in is just an altogether more pleasant look at the adolescent experience. Amy and Molly's eccentric friendship isn't ever seriously mocked by the other kids, there isn't any objectification, and most importantly no one is called ‘faggot’, even the openly gay characters.
They have their troubles, like in all relationships, but It's enjoyable to watch these people together and I feel that's what we need more of in high school movies: fun and levity, proof that it's not all bad.
It's so ingrained in us as a society that we will struggle during those formative years. When I watched things like Superbad or The Inbetweeners I would either shudder at similar experiences I'd had or despair at those yet to come. Watching Booksmart makes me look back on that time in my life and think maybe it wasn't all bad.
Anyway, now that I've bared my soul for you all, it's time to regress back into critic mode for a final summary.
Booksmart is an endearing comedy that features a whole host of famous (and soon to be) faces from the funnier side of Hollywood. They used up a lot of the best bits in the trailers but there are still many laughs to be had and Dever and Feldstein bring it all together with their shared spark and magnetism.
If you liked this review and wish to become booksmart yourself, feel free to browse the wide catalogue of reviews available on the Super Ink Arts website. And if you want to dumb yourself back down again, find me on Twitter at @Mooscittles.
Written by Kyle J.