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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Booksmart (2019)

Update:
I made my own tv spot for this movie, based on the Teenage Dirtbag idea mentioned at the bottom of the review. The spot is here, and 'making of' details about it are here. Enjoy!

After a somewhat disappointing run, overshadowed by blockbusters, Booksmart was re-released in major theaters. Jumping at the opportunity to see it a second time did not disappoint in the slightest, but figuring out what to say about it hasn't gotten any easier. It's a fantastic high school comedy, and directorial debut, from Olivia Wilde. It's most comparable to Superbad, but with two elements that set it apart: well-developed side characters and it looks like an arthouse film. So, how exactly does that raise the bar?

Booksmart is about two overachieving students, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), who decide to cut loose for the first time and go to one of their friends' grad party. The one problem, they don't have the host's number or address. So, a night "we'll never remember with friends we'll never forget" is exactly what they get.

One scene in Superbad that people may be unexpectedly reminded of is when some jerk named Jesse tells Seth and Evan they're not invited to his grad party, spits on Seth, calls Evan a f****t, and...that's it. He comes back at the end for a comeuppance, but he's so forgettable it's not worth it, and Seth and Evan being outsiders is clear enough through other scenes. There's a lot of stock characters like that in Superbad, not nearly as bad, but just there for one-off, padding moments.

Booksmart, on the other hand, fully utilized its cast and every character feels authentic. Put-downs aren't without just cause, and they're not all that mean-spirited. Booksmart just uses them to get things started. It's a slow intro, that could've been cut down a little, to the real insanity. Once it's set up, the comedy really comes out, and it's from seeing characters, not just the actors giving them life, having a great time. Overall, what I think I may (also) be getting at is it's the more optimistic movie. This chapter was fantastic, you're open to turn back to it whenever you want, but the next one will be even better.

Now, about that arthouse style...it's beautiful. Olivia Wilde and her crew pull out all the stops to make the environment feel immersive. A lot of (I think) natural lighting in, cozy locations. This is heightened by some key closeups. This also includes an extensive playlist that includes music from Alanis Morissette and Perfume Genius, and a score from Dan The Automator. It's not as memorable as the soundtracks for Guardians of the Galaxy or Baby Driver, but it's not trying to be that. Instead, the album carries Amy and Molly through their rollercoaster night. Every up and down punctuated with just the right note. That goes for how sound it edited as well.

Booksmart Animation
The animated sequence was by ShadowMachine. A glimpse was in the trailers, and it definitely raised interest in the movie | Copyright 2019 Annapurna

Booksmart is the latest in a long line of recent bold debut titles, like Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, and that alone should be creating a lot more buzz. It's a tough movie to sell because it's "another high school comedy," but it's a step above other high school movies, and the jokes are laugh-out-loud hilarious and shouldn't be given away. What's left is just trust in Wilde and Annapurna Pictures. The studio's been behind some heavy hitters, and this is one of them. 
4/5

One more thing, before or after seeing it, I recommend listening to this cover of Teenage Dirtbag. They match up together pretty well.
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