It’s the day before they graduate from high school, and best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are secure in the knowledge that they have achieved first class grades. They’ve managed this by working hard and staying well away from the kind of distractions that their less dedicated classmates have enjoyed to the full – parties, romances, drink and recreational drugs. Amy and Molly are the kind of students who spend their leisure time in the library and who can’t help correcting the grammar on the graffiti in the school toilets. They are – basically – swots.
So when Molly discovers that all her hard-partying classmates are also going to graduate with honours and will attend the finest universities in the land, she’s understandably dismayed. She vows that, tonight, she and Amy will attend the wildest party in town, that they will pursue the long-held romantic interests they have deliberately set aside, and indulge in all the hedonistic pleasures they can lay their hands on.
In short, they will, for once in their lives, let their hair down and enjoy themselves. The only problem is, they don’t actually have the address where the party is being held…
Dever and Feldstein are terrific as the central couple and the witty script expertly kindles the laughs as the duo experience alarming setbacks in their quest to experience those forbidden pleasures. There are some genuinely heartwarming moments too, as the girls finally address the unspoken issues that lie at the heart of their mutual dependancy.
The real strength of Booksmart, however, lies in the way it cheerfully sets up a whole string of audience expectations, only to cleverly subvert them – from the school’s sardonic principal (Jason Sudeikis), who moonlights as a taxi driver, to the resident rich kid (Skyler Gisondo), reduced to trying to lure friends to his party by offering them free iPads. Nothing here is ever quite what you expect and none of the characters are allowed to descend into cliché.
Directed by actor Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is a joyful little peach of a movie: sharp, clever and perceptive. It’s sure to make you laugh and you may even emerge from the cinema (as I did) with a lump in your throat. Enjoy!