The story follows Molly and Amy, two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, suddenly realise that they should have worked less and played more. Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night.
Booksmart, a film about high school – the current colosseum where the innocent and not so innocent are fed to lions – is simply not cruel enough to feel authentic, not funny enough to make you cringe at what you are laughing at, and not insane enough to elevate it to mockumentary/spoof status.
As a coming-of-age film it pales in comparison with, let’s say, Lady Bird, which was a complex, derisively funny and yes, utterly mean instalment in the genre. The scenes between Lady Bird and her mom, the magnificent Laurie Metcalf, cut deep, but more importantly, felt incredibly real even though it was exaggerated.
At my age I can barely remember high school. Yet I will wager money on the fact that one or two things remain the same to this day. For example, moving between social groupings is hard work, if not impossible. You’re pretty much a nerd, a jock, a loner or an overachiever throughout your high school career. Yet in Booksmart our two nerdy, uber-judgemental, over-achieving friends easily navigate within a few hours towards the cool kids – they simply needed to realise they have been missing out. In fact, the cool kids have just been waiting for them to realise that and receive them with open arms. They’re not mean or judgemental towards them. There is no real animosity between anyone. All the students are simply, well, misunderstood.
Plus, there are gaping holes in Amy’s and Molly’s backdrop. Where are Molly’s parents? Amy’s parents, even though one-dimensional, have two scenes at the minimum.
Why does Molly live in a fabulously retro-styled, uber-pink apartment building, seemingly on her own? Now that would be a movie I would watch.
Even though Billy Lourd (daughter of Carrie Fisher, granddaughter of Debbie Reynolds) gives it her all as the elusive, yet aggressive, Gigi, you don’t know jack about her character – why is she is so strung out, where does she come from and why is she hanging out with high-schoolers?
And what’s up with the teacher (an underutilised Jessica Williams) sleeping with a high school kid?
There were quite a few bum notes.
Sure, there are striking moments of hilarity (the sex scene), of beauty (underwater in the pool) and of insanity. But they are few and far between, and everything in the in-between is merely cute or amusing. The craziness the trailer promises never arrives.