Booksmart (2019)

11th February 2022

Booksmart is now available to rent, stream or buy.

If one director has come the closest to creating a modern-day John Hughes vibe, it’s Olivia Wilde. Her feature directorial debut, Booksmart, is built upon the energy of an electrical transformer detonating in our hands as we follow Beanie Feldstein’s Molly and Kaitlyn Dever’s Amy. Here, just as in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Pretty in Pink, Molly and Amy’s relationship shines with a ferocity and complexity akin to Ferris and Cameron or Andie and Duckie. In fact, Feldstein and Dever complement each other so perfectly that one could watch them for hours without ever becoming bored.

However, like Hughes best films, Booksmart’s brilliance is also held in a superb ensemble cast; Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo and Molly Gordon, to name but a few. Here each cast member has room to breathe in Halpen, Haskins and Fogel’s delightful screenplay. In this troupe of fantastic talent, Billie Lourd particularly stands out for me despite her limited screen-time; after all, everyone has known a Gigi in the past, right? You know, the kid alienated by others for being too weird when they’re really the coolest person in school.


Part of Booksmart’s enduring brilliance is its breakneck pace – kinetic camera work, surprisingly chaotic set-pieces and non-stop hilarity and hijinks. Here Booksmart only stops to take a breather at key points, just like the youths at its heart. But it is within the breath of fresh air it brings to the classic coming of age love story that Booksmart finds its voice. Here the love story at its heart is one of two friends who are more like sisters, with Amy’s queerness placed front-and-centre. The result is a story that never falls victim to the typical coming-of-age clichés but writhes with themes of difference, gender equality, sexuality, belonging, escape and sisterly love. 

Resisting a range of coming of age stereotypes, Booksmart is wrapped in a modern reflection of youth sub-culture, as Amy and Molly release themselves from the academic ties constraining them. It is here that Booksmart reflects an eternal truth of school life; the classroom and corridors are a hive of segregation based on preconceived and rarely challenged stereotypes. After all, thinking back, how many of us missed out on amazing friendships and memories because our prejudices and assumptions got in the way?

Of course, John Hughes was a master of sub-culture exploration both within and outside school. But Booksmart continues this discussion with a thoroughly modern eye for detail. Here Booksmart challenges the ever-changing yet eternal social fabric of the school system as it asks us to communicate and embrace difference – challenging a range of perceptions and stereotypes that ultimately mean less as we enter adult life.


Go toTop