Raunchy teen comedy breaks the mold of raunchy teen comedies
I do not claim to know what it's like to be a teenager in 2019. I'll bet it's hard. It's always hard.
But I'm glad they have a teen comedy like “Booksmart,” one that joins many of the greats in being both in the moment and yet feeling universal.
It follows a tried and true formula (high schoolers on a mission to hit a big party) but also feels consistently fresh, both in its approach and its attitudes towards gender, sexuality and more.
Best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are approaching their high school graduation as two overachieving students with an eye on the future.
Molly is set for her future “in New Haven” (“You can just say Yale,” her principal tells her), the outcome of her years of studious work.
But when she learns that a lot of her fellow students at her L.A. high school are also going to prestigious schools, she rethinks all of the partying she missed.
So Molly and Amy set out for the big pre-grad senior bash. Shenanigans ensue.
“Booksmart” marks an outstanding debut by actress Olivia Wilde behind the camera. She directs a sweet, insightful and consistently hilarious script by Emily Halpern, Susanna Fogel, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman.
It's also a raunchy teen comedy with evolved attitudes towards gender and sexuality.
In one of the movie's funniest moments, we see Amy's parents (Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow) going awkwardly overboard to be supportive of their daughter's queerness, despite the fact that they've totally misunderstood her BFF status with Molly as sexual in nature.
Feldstein, who was great in support in “Lady Bird,” takes the comedic lead with ease in a role with parallels to older brother Jonah Hill's turn in “Superbad.”
Devers is a pure breakout and joins the list of notable alums of one of my favorite underseen gems, “Short Term 12,” along with Brie Larson, LaKeith Stanfield and Rami Malek. She has some of the movie's most tender moments, and she nails them.
There's also hilarious support from, among others, Billie Lourd (“Scream Queens”) as a rich party girl.
But one of the things that “Booksmart” does best is turning high-school tropes on their ear. It deals in stereotypes before making almost all of them more complex.
That's what's so refreshing about “Booksmart.” It doesn't deal in heroes and villains. All these kids are all right, and that's a pretty great message. And don't even get me started on the soundtrack (Lizzo! Alanis! Run the Jewels!) or score by Dan the Automator.
I'll give this one a repeat viewing to see if it holds up, but right now, consider it among the best films of 2019.