MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Booksmart’

A great cast and solid direction can't save this mediocre coming-of-age story.

Review by J.T. Johnson

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I was really looking forward to seeing “Booksmart”, the new coming-of-age comedy from Olivia Wilde in her directorial debut. I also saw beforehand that the film had an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. I honestly don’t know why critics are applauding this film as much as they are.

Before I get to that, though, let me tell you what I can praise the film for. The movie contains a genuinely diverse and solid cast that is led by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. The movie’s story also contains a positive message about not assuming things about people that you don’t really know. It is also expertly directed by Wilde and I really hope that she continues as director as well as an actress.

The film follows Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever), two friends that have never partied and focused entirely on their schoolwork and their future plans. After having it pointed out to her that she’s missed out on life by focusing too much on school, Molly convinces Amy that on the night of their graduation, they should go to a big party. The usual hijinks ensue as we follow Molly and Amy as they try to get to the party in question.

The movie is being compared to “Superbad” and it would have been alright if the film had followed the formula. The problem is that the movie’s story feels like the writers simply took that film’s script and only tweaked it a bit. Like every other comedy, you get the two friends who will eventually have a fight with each other and make up and you’ll have other awkward moments such as the two accidentally taking drugs and dealing with potential love interests.

Still, I wouldn’t be thinking about how close this film sticks to the formula if not for one much bigger problem. The movie just isn’t funny. I sat there the whole time and didn’t ever do anything above a minor chuckle… and that was only for a handful of scenes. Mostly, there was absolute silence in the theater.

Even as I try to find another positive thing that I can say about the movie, the fact that I found the whole affair so unfunny keeps popping into my head. I don’t really have much more to say than that and I really wish that I did because I really wanted to like this movie. The cast is great and the direction from Wilde is solid but, in the end, a comedy needs to make you laugh and on that front, this film failed miserably.

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