For anyone who had a reasonably good time at high school, the memories remain romanticised. The simultaneous frustration of wanting to escape and the overwhelming sorrow at a poignant chapter coming to a close, it remains bittersweet. It’s no surprise that so many teen movies conclude with graduation ceremonies – a hopeful and uncertain time. As my friends and I prepared to leave school, Superbad arrived – a coming-of-age comedy centred around Jonah Hill and Michael Cera’s Seth and Evan and their pathetic and desperate pursuits for girls and to cement a legacy as their school days come to an end. I’ve always felt a little uneasy about Superbad, each re-visit making me more and more uncomfortable with the sexualised and disrespectful language used by the central teens about their female classmates. Now, twelve years later we welcome Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart to cinemas, bringing with it depictions of an altogether more woke high school but whose students continue to pursue the same desires. Best friends and high flyers Molly and Amy come to the painful realisation that they may have wasted their school days in the library rather than at raucous house parties and set about reversing their reputation on the final night before graduation. Hilarity and chaos ensues but with it comes a genuine emotional punch which I know some of my male friends experienced back in 2007.
Molly, played by the charismatic Beanie Feldstein, is goofy yet focused, unconventional yet confident – all in all a breath of fresh air and a sincere one. Meanwhile, Amy is infatuated with a fellow student, keen to experience her first sexual encounter after coming out as gay two years earlier but riddled with self-doubt. Their friendship is long-standing and a life-line for both misfits. In some of the film’s most delightful moments the duo aggressively compliment each other with a fierce commitment. An energetic soundtrack and several very amusing set pieces makes Booksmart rather good. It’s the film’s genuine love of its lead characters and its sensitive understanding of the heartache that comes with high school friendships that makes it wonderful. Booksmart is for anyone who lost their best friends after high school, for anyone who never quite found their people and for those who still reminisce about high school and the happiness, hilarity and hormones that fuelled our time there. Despite following a rather formulaic narrative, Booksmart‘s central relationship brought me to tears – big, overwhelming tears. We now look back on our time at school with the gift of hindsight. In our maturity it’s easy to trivialise the dramas and events of our teen years but films like Booksmart reignite youthful hearts and reminds us that the friendships we had back then – whether or not they endure – are like no other. After high school, nothing is ever the same again – something the film simultaneously celebrates and mourns. Sharp, vibrant and hilarious, Booksmart brings together the best of both Ghost World and Superbad in a charming and poignant story of two enchanting female inbetweeners.
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