After experiencing success as an actress, Olivia Wilde decided it was time to direct. Female directors are becoming more common nowadays. More aptly, studios are giving more female directors opportunities. Wilde, based on her directorial debut, has taken full advantage of her chance, delivering a wild teen comedy full of heart. Starring Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing) and Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird), Booksmart is almost a female take on Superbad. It follows Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) and the stunning life lessons that appear on their last day of high school. Besides drawing from Superbad (which starred Feldstein’s brother, Jonah Hill), Booksmart takes a page or two from Lady Bird (which is directed by another female actress, Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig) and Can’t Hardly Wait. In this case, it’s fantastic since Wilde’s feature is so fun.

Amy and Molly are best friends who’ve opted to concentrate entirely on academics while in high school. Molly, after realizing her classmates (who’ve partied and goofed off the entire four years) have been accepted to good colleges, too, vows to make up for things by finally letting loose the night before graduation. With Amy in tow, the pair paint the town red searching for their school’s biggest grad party, thrown by senior class vice-president Nick (Mason Gooding). And just to confirm – the academic do-gooders don’t know where the party is! A slew of surprises await Molly and Amy as they encounter all types of wacky people from school and deal with a myriad of wild scenarios.

In addition to Booksmart starring and directed by women, its writers are all women, too. Suzanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman worked together on a script that provides plenty of laughs while remaining earnest. And despite things getting crazy, Booksmart never gets vulgar because it doesn't lose focus on its real story, which is friendship. That’s where Dever and Feldstein shine – they share some obvious chemistry and comedic timing that has me utterly surprised they aren’t old pros at this. And as is the norm with all friendships, there are plenty of bumps and bruises to be had. That aspect is incorporated well and contributes to some of Booksmart’s more emotional moments.

Don’t forget, teenagers like to hook up with each other when they’re not partying or studying. Booksmart wouldn’t be a teen romp if it didn’t have a love story or two. Molly harbors a secret crush for the unlikeliest of people, and she’s going to use tonight to let her crush know. Amy crushes on a female classmate. It’s the more interesting of the two for obvious reasons, but outside of Amy’s parents being typically unsure about how to navigate their daughter’s sexuality, Booksmart presents Amy’s crush on Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) as the norm. Boosting that normalcy is a scene highlighting the awkwardness of teens hooking up, not the awkwardness of two women together.

In case you’re deterred by the idea Booksmart lacks star power, some well-known actors make small but memorable appearances. Jason Sudeikis appears briefly as Principal Brown; while Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte play Amy’s parents. Up and coming talent Jessica Williams (The Daily Show) co-stars as Miss Fine, Amy and Molly’s favorite teacher and major crush for another student (like I mentioned, things get a little wild). And for the Star Wars fans, Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) steals every scene she’s in, playing Gigi, one of the wackiest (and funniest) high schoolers in cinema.

Although it’s not an original concept, Booksmart is a fresh take on teen romps. The fact that it’s female-centric is novel but, considering how funny and entertaining this is, should be the norm. In that sense, Booksmart takes its cues from movies like Pitch Perfect and shows like Girls. Booksmart is somewhere in the middle of the two in regards to adult humor, and it’s balanced out with themes of friendship, regret and reconciliation.

Booksmart is worth a look and is a welcome comedy addition. Along with Long Shot, it’s one of the best comedies this year.

4 stars out of 5


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