Several film critics have noted similarities between Booksmart, the new film from actress Olivia Wilde, who makes her debut as a writer-director, and 2007's Superbad. It's an obvious comparison, even if Booksmart centers on teenage girls and Superbad is about teenage boys. Both buddy movies are coming-of-age stories that revolve around one particularly crazy night of fun and mayhem. (Also, one of the Booksmart girls is played by Beanie Feldstein, younger sister of actor Jonah Hill, who starred as one of the boys in Superbad).
The comparison, however, doesn't do justice to Booksmart and makes it seem like it's derivative, which it's not. Thanks to the screenwriting team of Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman, and thanks to its terrific soundtrack featuring underground hip-hop and indie rock acts like Run the Jewels, LCD Soundsystem, Santigold, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Anderson Paak, Booksmart has its own voice. It offers a really fresh take on what it's like to be a teenager today.
The movie opens areawide on Friday.
The film focuses on Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Feldstein), two nerdy high school seniors who suddenly realize that they've been so busy studying and trying to get into esteemed colleges, they forgot to let loose. When they learn of a massive night-before-graduation party, they decide they have one last chance to "break the rules," and they go for it.
That means partying with the cool kids, whom they clearly don't respect or even like very much, and for Amy, it means finally getting up the guts to flirt with fellow female classmates she thinks might be receptive to her advances.
Since Amy and Molly don't know the actual address of the party they want to attend, they have to do a bit of investigative work to find it. They get sidetracked along the way and end up on a giant boat where fellow high-school senior Jared (Skyler Gisondo) has thrown his own massive party, only no one bothered to show up for it. Once they blaze out of there, they end up following a few more false leads, including one that leads them to a super nerdy murder mystery-themed party, before they wind up in the right place. Of course, it all ends disastrously, and the night goes even further south when the cops finally show up at the bash to break things up.
While celebs such as Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Michael Patrick O'Brien, Jason Sudeikis and Jessica Williams have cameos in the film, the movie belongs to Dever and Feldstein, who really shine in their respective roles, suggesting they have bright futures ahead of them whether they pursue comedy or drama or a combination of the two.