At first one may think this is just another ditsy film about teenagers. But as director Olivia Wilde (yes, the actress) unveils her take on the scene in her filmmaker debut, the way in which “Booksmart” scores as different takes hold. Not only can one enjoy the escapades of two girls about to graduate high school, but beyond the laughs and outrageous events there are serious observations about friendship, frustrations and the fear of losing a bond when the gal pals move into the lives ahead of them.
The set-involves Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, who have been best friends as they studied hard in school to get places in top universities and earn a bright future. Their intense efforts and good grades have come at the expense of not partying as some of the students on whom they look down do. Much to the shock Molly and Amy get, they find that the partying classmates also get into top schools despite their playing around instead of working their butts off.
That realization sets Molly and Amy off on a furious quest to find a raging party on the night before they go to the graduation ceremonies. A big chunk of the film follows their trail and what happens when they hit the ultimate bash.
Along the way we learn about their personalities and cravings. Amy has come out as gay, but there isn’t any sexual relationship with Molly. It is pure friendship, but they do talk a lot about sex with amusing candor. (A hilarious interlude of animated, sexual puppetry is a clever touch.)
At the party Amy meets a woman who is open to a lesbian encounter. As the women undress, the scene begins to look hot. Then, they—and maybe we—are disappointed as Amy suddenly vomits all over her would-be lover.
In a scene the next morning Molly gazes through a window as Amy and her new friend talk despite their stomach-upset fiasco. Molly, frantically trying to get Amy’s attention and with an expression of astonishment, indicates at least momentary jealousy.
There is a madcap rush to get to graduation after the night of partying and a final touch indicates that Molly and Amy will try to hold onto their bond. The supporting cast does an excellent job, whether the roles are other students or adults. It is easy to see why a lot of film fans, particular among the younger set, will take this school-days romp to heart. Four screenwriters collaborated on the script—Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Susanna Folgel—and their insights into the characters and their behavior undoubtedly gain from the female perspective they and Wilde bring to “Booksmart.” An Annapurna Pictures release. Reviewed May 25, 2019.