Booksmart: A Comedy I Actually (and Maybe Immensely) Enjoy

by Nadia Stern on February 6, 2020

Booksmart is a beautifully realistic film by first-time director Olivia Wilde, and a must-see for teenagers or adults who just want a good laugh. This movie never seems to get old, and you might find yourself wanting to watch it again soon after your first viewing. The conflict begins when straight-A students Amy and Molly realize that while they have been slaving away all throughout high school to get accepted by Ivy League colleges, their party hard classmates still got into great colleges. Molly convinces Amy to spend one night attempting to experience the aspect of high school they missed out on. Although watching a movie about people trying to do everything they’ve always wanted to in one night might sound cheap or unoriginal, this movie exceeded my expectations.

I’d like to start off by saying that I have struggled to find comedy-centric movies that I do not regret seeing, or that I don’t feel I have wasted my time watching—in fact, I can’t recall a single comedy aside from Booksmart that I actually enjoyed. The humor in Booksmart is light-hearted in some places, and in others, ironic. Most importantly, it doesn’t downgrade the overall quality of the film. Instead, comedy adds a much-needed layer to this movie, which emphasizes the irony of high school and the way things can be blown out of proportion in the midst of everything. The characters in the movie are not embarrassed beyond belief, they are not idiots, and the jokes do not depend on toilet humor (my usual three critiques of comedies). You know those coincidental and unreal encounters we experience that we later reflect upon, saying, “that should be in a movie”? Booksmart is filled with these surprising yet relatable moments. At the start of the movie, our protagonist Amy finally finds the opportunity and the courage to talk to her crush, but instead ends up awkwardly commenting on her sharp chin. Moments like these are bound to get a bit of a laugh as well as increase our attachment to the characters.

Sometimes reality seems exaggerated, but disbelief is suspended and coincidences are excused due to the microcosm of high school reality created by Booksmart. When Amy and Molly call an Uber, only to discover that the driver is their head of school, instead of cultivating a cynical audience, everyone is too caught up in the beautiful mess of life that this movie portrays to worry about those details. In fact, I would say that moment was an entertaining highlight that stuck with me, about the reality not only of high school but of working in the world as an adult. However, the Uber scene (along with the scene where the girls try to track down a party through social media) could also be considered one of the movie’s weaknesses: relying on current trends doesn’t exactly make the movie timeless. While I understand that this means the movie may soon become outdated, if it is an enjoyable movie right now, could that be enough? As far as this goes, I’m not entirely sure. I’m quite sure I will always like this movie, but I’m doubtful of whether future generations will feel the same way.

Booksmart is also a very honest movie—the protagonist is gay, but this part of her identity is not made into a big thing. She is gay in the same way that Molly is straight, and their close friendship being seen as a romantic relationship by Amy’s parents is an added layer of comedy. People might feel that the integration of LGBTQ+ characters is clunky or forced, but I think Booksmart gave a valiant effort: Amy is a three-dimensional character, and her life is not driven by the fact that she is gay, nor is it ignored. Booksmart embraces the supportive and playful friendship between a gay teen and her straight counterpart, and what a relief that Amy does not fall in love with her best friend! That is an all too common plot among LGBTQ+ movies.

Booksmart is a heartfelt, hilarious, and relatable film that doesn’t try too hard. If you’re someone who has almost given up on comedies, I urge you to give this one a chance. Every movie has flaws, as does Booksmart, but the pros outweigh the cons. The conflict is well-executed, the humor is on point, and there is a positive message conveyed by candid characters.