Booksmart Has Hope but, Misses an Opportunity for Success

After watching Booksmart’s trailer, I knew I had to see this movie immediately. A coming of age film with female leads, wit, and comedy, what was the fastest way to buy my tickets? After racing to the theatre opening night, Booksmart didn’t fall flat, it simply didn’t exceed my expectations. In other words, it was good with potential to be great. Though, the film had several obstacles standing in its way to achieving that feat. 

Best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) spent their time in high school working to get into exceptional colleges. On the final day of high school, Molly continues to act uptight despite her acceptance to Yale. However, a bathroom break turns Molly’s world upside down. Her classmates, who she looked down upon for partying and having fun, were also accepted into top-tier universities. Thus, Molly makes it her mission for her and Amy to attend a party and make the most of their final weekend before graduation. 

Scenes To Watch Out For

The aforementioned bathroom scene is perhaps the funniest in the film. This comes moments before Molly casually dropped the words “New Haven”. The principal had to remind her that the school’s policy is to not brag, or frankly mention at all, where students will be attending next fall. While in a bathroom stall, Molly overhears her classmates making crude comments about her prude outfits and studious personality.

In attempts to make her classmates bite their tongue, Molly flaunts that while they spend their time bad-mouthing others in the bathroom, she will be at Yale. At this moment, queen bee, known only as Triple A (Molly Gordon) for her reputation, shares that she will also be attending Yale. This sends the protagonist into a downward spiral. She frantically stomps into the crowded hallway and interrogates every popular student about their commitments (the answers include Stanford, Georgetown, and Harvard, not too shabby). 

Feldstein does a fantastic job in this scene of conveying Molly’s inner and outer emotions. Molly’s pent-up anger explodes into a moment of confusion and rage. Despite her five foot tall stature, she pushes jocks up against lockers. Intertwined, Feldstein’s comedic timing shines as she raises her voice at the perfect moment, making Molly’s bewilderment a sight to be seen. 

Booksmart’s Focus

Beyond this scene, which acts as a plot catalyst, the remainder of the film doesn’t live up to this level of comedic gold (with the exception of Molly and Amy’s Uber ride, which I couldn’t stop laughing at even after the girls reached their destination). Perhaps this is due to the flawed female friendship the film revolves around. Undoubtedly, Feldstein and Dever’s starring was the selling point that made me see this film. I’ve previously admired Feldstein for her work in Lady Bird and on Broadway in the revival of Hello, Dolly!, so I couldn’t wait to see what she brought to Booksmart

Yet, Molly’s diligence often came off as cockiness and her determination morphed into whininess. These less than favorable traits were clearest in her treatment of her best friend, Amy. Molly pushes Amy into situations she’s uncomfortable in without listening when Amy explicitly states she’s had enough. Booksmart attempts to set an example of female empowerment and friendship but, is portrayed as the exact opposite.

Booksmart (Amy and Molly)
(Annapurna Pictures)

Friendship Tropes

Even before Amy and Molly’s public and humiliating fight, their friendship has more than a few flaws. A night trying to fill four years of high school into one outing soon turns into the dismantles their bond, revealing their true colors. While the girls’ ultimately resolve their differences, a bitter taste lingers for the rest of the film. Thus making the audience reconsider earlier character motives. Booksmart sets up several tropes, whether their cliché nature bothers you or not is another issue, but never digs deep enough to resolve the motifs they put in place. 

Takeaways

All in all, Booksmart pushes a few too many boundaries with the intention of being a great movie. Whereas, the film would have been a success by focusing on specifics rather than painting broad strokes across multiple topics. The film industry can certainly use more female-driven productions and Booksmart makes a solid attempt to start this needed change. Nevertheless, Booksmart didn’t skyrocket to the top of my favorite films list, nor did it receive an honorable mention; instead, it remains a ticket stub soon to be forgotten when the summer passes.

Lauren Toneatto

Staff Writer

An aspiring artist, avid reader, and Disney princess in training. Commonly found eating Cheerios and creating. She wishes to explore the world and all it has to offer.

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