“Booksmart” Review: a modern feminist underdog story

Olivia Wilde’s first feature film, Booksmart, is a painfully relatable coming high school comedy which follows two best friends on their quest for an exciting last night before graduation. With a star-studded cast, this film was sure not to disappoint. We follow Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) as they set out to have one glorious night of partying to make up for lost time during the past four years of constant studying. The quirky humor hit almost as hard as the moving and intimate conversations.

Often while I was watching the film, I was caught off guard by how breathtaking the cinematography was. Each shot was unique and felt personal, incorporating a variety of shot sizes. Whether they’re shown pushing through a crowded high school hallway or seated in the back seat of a Lyft, it is so easy to become a part of their lives. The shots that they used were absolutely beautiful. Featuring shots from late night parking lots to an average looking public high school. The incorporation of varying styles gave it an edge that is extremely engaging to the viewer.

While the film felt very personal, it was shot objectively and from an outsider view. In some films, being placed in this position gives a detached feeling. If one is not thrown into the narrator’s shoes or placed as their confidant, it can be very easy to form an opinion other than the one intended by the writers or directors. Since Booksmart was filmed entirely in a third person point of view, it was refreshing to see all aspects of the school and different subplots between side characters. It was very evident from the start that Amy and Molly are unique outsiders in their senior class, which made the decision to support them as the “underdog” type an easy one. This worked really well for the film and was able to keep the audience invested in the plot without being influenced by a specific character’s thoughts.

The film follows a clear progression over the course of a few days. As far as the editing, it mainly consists of continuity. With the complex storyline, constant travel, and movement within large crowds, this decision is very effective and helpful for the audience. Without this, it would be easy to get overwhelmed with following Amy and Molly through their adventurous night. The clearest use of continuity editing is seen in a multitude of scenes, such as the many which take place in various cars.

The score of Booksmart is so perfectly selected. From preppy 2000s hip hop vibes to heart wrenching melodies drowning out what might be the most intense argument Amy and Molly have ever had. The use of non-diegetic sound plays such an important role in such a film. Dan the Automator (who scored the film), did such an amazing job. It was so easy to feel moved by the music as they infiltrated the room.

Wilde’s feature, Booksmart, has repeatedly proven itself as worthy of praise. The cinematography, score, and direction is immaculate. It tugged at the heart strings of any audience member who had a true friend during their high school years. Each moment they spent together felt so real and powerful. The whole film was so intimate while being a huge production, it was executed beautifully.