Booksmart was released back in May and I don’t remember why but I never got around to watching it. I don’t even think I watched a trailer for it. I watched on the twitter as it got praise from all of the critics I respect, defended by people saying it wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, and still I didn’t go see it.
Around the time it came out I recall seeing John Wick 3, Brightburn, and Ma. All were movies that I was previously anticipating and excited about and I think that’s what kept Booksmart from happening but I won’t hold on to that excuse. This past weekend when I set out on my mini movie festival and I saw that Booksmart was available to rent on Amazon I made it happen. I was even glad that I had to pay for it because I wanted to feel like I supported the movie in some way. Enough blabbering though. Let’s get to it.
While I don’t want to REALLY make the comparison I have to. Booksmart was essentially a woman led version of Superbad with smarter leads. The style of comedy, the adventure aspect, all of it. While there was more story here, that’s the best way to describe what you’re getting into.
While I somewhat addressed it above I wanted to come back to this. I knew I had to watch Booksmart because it felt important culturally based on the way people were talking about it. It is a movie that is carried by two young women (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein), was written by four women (Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman), and directed by a woman in Olivia Wilde.
That is a huge deal and for that reason alone Booksmart should be celebrated. While it didn’t do as well at the box office as many would have liked it still made four times its budget ($24.6 million worldwide vs. an estimated $6 million budget). It still has a 97% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 77% rating from audiences. Now I am very vocal about how it’s hard to judge comedies, action movies, and horror movies by what critics say and better to look at what the masses say but this one won over both by a safe margin. My expectations were through the roof, and I always try to avoid expectations because it is hard to ever live up to them.
Without going to deep into it, Booksmart is a story about two girls who spent their entire high school careers trying to be the perfect students while judging their classmates. They assumed their superiority because they shut themselves off from fun and stayed in their books. Now this did pay off for them as they finished at the top of their class, but in the meantime they missed out on a lot and early in the movie they realize that it may not have made as much of a difference as they thought.
I was won over by the premise as soon as this revelation hits so I’m not going to go into detail there. However, with this new revelation they realize that they still have one shot to prove to their classmates that they can have fun and end high school on a strong note before heading off to their futures. Of course, their night does not go smoothly at all and they end up having quite the adventure before they eventually get to the party they were trying to get to. However, once they’re there things get very real and the movie takes a turn for the serious before turning things back around to close it out. My spoiler-free style makes me write cryptically but I hope you get the idea of the flow of the movie at least.
This gets to the Superbad comparison. The vibe of the movie is very similar and then there is one extra detail that really drove it home. Early in the movie I kept thinking that the girl playing Molly was giving me strong Jonah Hill vibes. Particularly Superbad Jonah Hill (though I said Pineapple Express because I wasn’t thinking.) Then I remembered a conversation I had with a coworker earlier in the week where he mentioned Jonah Hill having a sister and Hill not being his last name. I looked up the sister and saw she was in Booksmart that day but forgot that conversation when I decided to watch a few days later.
Fast-forward and I realized I had good reason to think she reminded me of Jonah but it really is uncanny. She looks like him, she has similar cadence and mannerisms and she’s at least just as funny as him. I might even lean to her being more funny. She definitely makes the movie for me. Her timing throughout the movie is amazing and I loved her character. I’m definitely going to be checking for some of her other work so I can see if I have a new favorite to add to my list.
Now you’re probably wondering why my title says the hype ruined the movie for me and we’ve finally reached that portion of the review. I probably would have loved Booksmart more than I ended up loving it had I not gone in expecting perfection. While Beanie was great and she and Kaitlyn Dever worked amazingly together, the rest of the cast is what hurt the movie for me.
I felt like the other kids characters were way too large and way too over-the-top. I get that it was somewhat the point but I’m a weirdo and I’m put off by weird things. I also didn’t like the fact that one of the two black characters ends up being a teacher with loose morals that ***SPOILER*** ends up sleeping with a student. AND I DO NOT CARE THAT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE 20! ***End Spoiler*** does things she shouldn’t have.
Side note: I did end up liking Skyler Gisondo’s character Jared by the end.
When it’s all said and done I did like Booksmart, I just didn’t love it. The side characters reminded me of the characters I hated from The Last Summer and took away from the awesomeness of the leading ladies. If you like raunchy comedies though you can do much worse and I’d recommend Booksmart for Beanie Feldstein alone quite honestly.
If you haven’t seen it yet make sure you add it to your list soon.
PS. I like to write my reviews somewhat stream of consciousness and there was one thing I wanted to mention that didn’t end up coming up as I wrote.
Back in high school I wrote an essay called “Smart Kids” about the kids in the AP classes and how all of our approaches were different. You had the kids who were smart and took things too seriously, those that perhaps weren’t as smart but worked hard to be there, and then kids like me who were smart but didn’t take it as seriously.
My mindset was that we were all going to the same colleges and I didn’t have to work myself to death to prove anything. I remember seeing some of the reactions when my SAT scores were higher than certain people’s and I lived for it.
Booksmart connected with me because it made me feel seen by addressing this idea which I don’t recall seeing in any other movie or show.
Yeah I just added like 200 words to this but it’s whatever. lol