BOOKSMART – Joyous, Coming of Age Film for the New Age of Pop-Culture Sisterhood

I bloody love Olivia Wilde and am so stoked she has decided to direct her first feature film. BOOKSMART is an all woman production and I am glad we asked Kernel Claire to review this one. Being our only female critic it’s appropriate to have her wonderful perspective on the film. I love the cast and the director and need to get my butt out to see this one, I do believe it is the first film Claire has given a PERFECT 5 POPS to!!! And that needs to be seen!

BOOKSMART has released already thanks to Universal Pictures Australia, sadly we missed the pre-release previews. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 102mins. Now enjoy Claire’s review……….all the best………Salty.

BY CLAIRE SMITH

BOOKSMART SYNOPSIS:

On the eve of their high-school graduation, two best friends realise their top grades have come at the expense of experiencing any fun in high school. As retribution, they devise a plan to cram all their missed high school experiences into one night. Written, directed, starring and about women. It’s fun, it’s femme, it’s frenetic. It’s an instant classic that’s definitely worth the price of admission.

BOOKSMART - Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy
Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

BOOKSMART is a story of friendship and support. It’s a film to shape and inspire the next generation of kickass young people. It’s centred more around self-worth and new experiences than the previous “If I’m the best at this, I’ll get the girl of my dreams as my prom prize at graduation” kind of storyline we’ve seen in the previous couple of decades of the teen-screen genre. 

BOOKSMART is written by, directed by, starring and about women – which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really is.

It’s actually a lot harder than you’d think to find strong stories about kickass women (where the storyline isn’t focussed around them finding a man) that is both written AND directed by women.

Thinking of BRIDESMAIDS/GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)? – well they’re written by Kristen Wiig (ZOOLANDER 2) and Katie Dippold (PARKS AND REC) respectively but both films are directed by the amazing Paul Feig. 

What about WONDER WOMAN? Directed by Patty Jenkins (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) but written by the talented Allan Heinberg (GREY’S ANATOMY) and Zach Snyder (300, WATCHMEN)

MAMMA MIA (2008) seems to tick all the boxes. Written by Catherine Johnson (Love in the 21st Century), directed by Phyllida Llody (THE IRON LADY) starring the amazing Merryl Streep (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) and Amanda Seyfried (MEAN GIRLS) but think about the storyline – it’s about a search for the missing father-figure of their past. It stars women, but the storyline centers around the hunt for men.

TRY IT FOR YOURSELF:

There’s been few quadruple female placement films in pop culture (here’s lookin’ at you, LADY BIRD) – but you’ve got to hunt a little left of centre to find them, and it’s what makes BOOKSMART an absolute stand-out. Seeing a film of this caliber with an all-female helm make it through to mainstream cinema really is kind of a big deal – we only get a few of these a year (at best) so we’ve really got to support them if we want to see more make it through to pop-culture status. 

BOOKSMART - Nico Hiraga as Tanner
Nico Hiraga as Tanner

Written and Directed by some kickass Women – all about the crew.

After flexing her directorial muscles on a few cinematic shorts and film clips, Olivia Wilde (TRON: LEGACY, HOUSE) took a seat in the directors chair for BOOKSMART as her directorial debut. It’s a role that evidently seems to have come naturally for her. The film flows beautifully through it’s simple storyline and the performances are nuanced and fantastical, but still grounded in reality. 

Katie Silberman (ISN’T IT ROMANTIC) is credited as penning the script for BOOKSMART and captures the adolescent high-school in the modern age experience wonderfully. Dialogue is witty but natural, pacing is spot-on and there’s some amazing nuggets of wisdom nestled comfortably in the 102min runtime.

BOOKSMART - Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy
Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy

CASTING – Wait, is that Princess Leia’s daughter??

YES!

Watch out for Billie Lourd (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) as the cashed-up, doped-out Gigi! She’s the daughter of the late, great (oh gosh we miss her) Carrie Fisher (STAR WARS FRANCHISE) and oh boy – can she hold a scene hostage! Lourd is fantastic as the semi-conscious “I’ve got your back….wait – who are you?” type of character that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in these teen genres. 

The two leads Molly – played by Beanie Feldstein (BAD NEIGHBOURS 2) and Amy – played by Kaitlyn Dever (MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN) have some insanely delightful onscreen friendship chemsitry. Best friends for the entirety of their education, the pair have foregone other friendships in order to place first in their classes. 

Feldstein and Dever quite simply steal the show. Their own comedic timing, paired with a killer script, and a strong directorial lead results in a captivating performance from the pair. 

Their undying support and their playful jostling of each other’s insecurities is engaging, hilarious and touching. 

Watch this space – the pair surely have an upcoming cinematic future. Either together or apart, they’ll hold their own in this industry. 

BOOKSMART - Skyler Gisondo as Jared
Skyler Gisondo as Jared

CINEMATOGRAPHY – Is it good to look at?

Surprisingly – yes! For a comedy, I thought we were going to be treated to the standard “shot, reverse shot” norms of a dialogue-based film. But BOOKSMART is so much more than that. There’s a  couple of absolute cinematic standouts in this film. Most notably a cutaway scene starring plastic barbie dolls and an underwater backlit pool scene that would sit comfortably among some of the most arthouse and Oscar-worthy films you can think of. 

A pivotal argument scene is focus-pulled so beautifully that the resulting tunnel vision of the shot does more to bring you into the scene than hearing the dialogue of an argument ever could. It’s an excellent example of “show, don’t tell” onscreen. 

Surprisingly, the film has cinematic moxie in abundance. Pair that with some quick-witted dialogue volleys between the characters and the run time just flies by. 

BOOKSMART - Mason Gooding as Nick and Beanie Feldstein as Molly
Mason Gooding as Nick and Beanie Feldstein as Molly

IN CONCLUSION – It’s a modern comedic delight. Honestly, just go see it.

Worth noting that BOOKSMART is a solid MA15+ though, so keep the young’uns with the babysitters for the evening. Sure to be an instant classic – it’s all the things we love in a teen high school coming of age film, updated for the new age of modern and upcoming self-aware superstars of the next generation.

It’s Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at 97%  What more do you need? Get  out there and get your eyeballs amongst it!

KERNEL CLAIRE’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR REVIEWER:

Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.