BOOKSMART: The Best Film of the Year

I’ve never laughed so much as I did when I saw Booksmart for the first time. 

I’ve since seen it four times since, and each re-watch confirms its spot as my favourite film of 2019.

On the night before high school graduation, Class President Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Denver) are faced with the realisation that, having spent all year studying for college, they didn’t leave any time for partying. And so the pair set out to live out to achieve the ultimate high school party experience before Amy leaves on her gap year. 

As the duo hop from party to party, we are introduced to a hilarious ensemble of teenagers. While each character has their own cliques (there’s the nerdy kids, the drama kids, the rich kids, and the cool kids), everyone at the school generally likes each other. This is a refreshing change from your usual high school movie.

In fact, one of the best parts of this film (and there are many ‘best parts’), is how it steers away from what we’ve come to expect from an American high school movie. The ensemble characters aren’t simplified into lazy stereotypes like ‘the bully’ and ‘the hot girl’, and instead are each given depth through character backstories that actively reject such stereotypes. Each character (including our protagonists) have their strengths and their downfalls, they aren’t simply ‘good’ or ‘mean’. This depth makes the characters all the more relatable for audiences of any age.

In another refreshing turn from your typical high school movie, the teenagers are far from the thin, straight, white actors we’re used to seeing. The ensemble cast is racially diverse, the characters are of all different sizes, and topics like lesbian relationships are a normal part of the plot. 

The casting of Booksmart is pitch perfect, and the script (written by four women) is so, so funny. Kaitlyn Denver and Beanie Feldstein have fantastic chemistry and are able to tackle the comedy and the drama with ease. Highlights of the cast include Skyler Gisondo as Jared, the rich kid desperately trying to buy friends, and George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute), the flamboyant drama kids. Billie Lourd steals the show as the eccentric and hilarious Gigi (think Sharpay Evans on steroids). 

And if the acting, directing and writing wasn’t good enough, the soundtrack bops. Hits like ‘Boys’ by Lizzo, ‘Nobody Speak’ by DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels, and ‘Attitude’ by Leikeli47’ are some of the best in a very strong soundtrack. If rewatching Booksmart’s not enough for you, the Spotify playlist is well deserving of a listen.

The past few years have been pivotal in bringing us great female coming of age stories, for women by women. In 2016 we had Hailee Steinfield starring in The Edge of Seventeen, in 2018 we had Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan, and in 2019 we have Booksmart. For a directorial debut, Olivia Wilde has gone above and beyond, delivering one of the best films of the year. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Jo Bradley

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