With a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Booksmart” was bound to be a solid movie. And it is. The movie has all the characteristics of a good coming-of-age drama, and it refuses to fall into the trap that so many in this genre have done before.
The concept of the movie is a feminist’s dream, as it has strong women leadership. Olivia Wilde is the director and Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman are the writers. The movie also has two strong, smart and sensible female characters: Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).
Having gone in with high expectations, I began to worry at the start of the film. It seemed as if all the funniest parts were in the trailer, and I wanted to see new content.
Luckily, the middle-to-end of the film delivered. When Skyler Gisondo entered as Jared, I knew there were more funny moments to come.
Unlike other coming-of-age drama, “Booksmart” doesn’t fall into the trap of portraying individuals as a single stereotype, which is unrealistic. Each character is complex, as the two protagonists Molly and Amy learn. The girl who enjoys giving blowjobs is smart, too. In fact, she’s heading to Yale in the fall — the same Ivy League university as Molly. The guy who failed a grade twice is a tech wiz and is anticipating starting a job at Google.
The same stands for the main two characters. They are dynamic and cannot fit into a single box with a single identity. Sure, Molly fits the mold of the kiss-ass, 4.0 class president, but, while she is loyal, she can also be selfish. She can also be attracted to the hottest, coolest boy in school without suddenly becoming dumb like she views the rest of her classmates (with the exception of her partner-in-crime Amy).
Amy plasters her feminist identity all over her bedroom walls and refuses to call her classmate Annabelle, who gives guys “roadside assistance,” by her derogratory nickname “Triple A.” Yet, she is not immune from idealizing her doll-like body that is a result of hallucinogens that Gigi — a rich and mysterious girl — gives her and Molly.
Molly and Amy’s friendship adds to the refreshing edge this film brings. Unlike in other movies, the downfalls in their friendship are not based on them being jealous of each other but in character flaws. They complement each other in a ridiculous — yet cute — way, going back and forth gushing about how good the other looks. It’s nice to finally see a friendship between two girls that isn’t based on ulterior motives.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the film’s plot is how Amy’s sexuality is not a huge deal. Amy identifies as a lesbian, but this isn’t the main focus of the film. Her love life gets just as much stock as Molly’s, and she’s not seen as strange for being attracted to women. The movie doesn’t center around her sexuality.
For once, a movie shows two women talking about their own pleasure. They do so in a way that’s judgement-free, without subscribing to the heteronormative, misogynistic script found in so many other films. Its portrayals of sex are honest; Amy’s first time is less than ideal (I won’t spoil this part), and the movie doesn’t shy away from anything.
The one thing that boggles my mind is that this is the first movie of its kind or, at least, that I have discovered so far. Could it be that a female director and a team of all-female writers are the reason for this?