By Brennan Atkins
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
By Noah Barnes
[Editor’s note: Brennan Atkins and Noah Barnes were invited to take part in an early free screening of “Booksmart.”]
Olivia Wilde has been an actress in Hollywood for quite some time now, with roles ranging from shows like “House” to big budget movies such as “Tron: Legacy.”
Wilde now makes her directorial debut with the comedy flick “Booksmart,” which features Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, and Beanie Feldstein as Molly.
The movie focuses in on two academic superstars ready to graduate high school, and while their GPAs may be among the best, their social lives are less than perfect. They haven’t experienced parties and romantic interests, but are satisfied that they will go to Ivy League schools while the rest of the class lags behind.
Until they find out the day before graduation that everyone seems to be doing just as well as them academically, while also enjoying the party life.
This results in them feeling as if they wasted the last four years, and they make it their mission to have one night of the high school experience before they go their separate ways in college.
One of the most interesting concepts in the film is the theme itself, as it’s unique. In high school, people put others into cliques and groups and label that whole group as a certain personality. The film questions these cliques, and how more often than not, people don’t want to go out of their way to cause harm – they just want to make it through high school.
The duo, Feldstein and Dever, are quite natural, which makes sense as they became great friends in real life during shooting. They have an almost “Superbad” vibe going on, where they are the outsiders among the crowd, but make their own fun out of situations.
They were genuinely skilled at evoking emotion from the audience, as it’s uncomfortable to see two people who never disagree, disagree. The film shows that their relationship is strong enough for the audience to care about.
Some of the other characters are well written. More often than not, Hollywood addresses having a gay character by having their whole personality being centered around being gay, almost in a shallow fashion. In this film, it’s nothing more than it should be – just the character’s sexuality.
The way the film was shot was unique compared to other comedies, including one-shot scenes that never cut away and follow the character continuously. These are difficult to pull off, and the scenes in which they did this must’ve required a good deal of choreography, so it’s impressive, to say the least.
Its soundtrack was surprisingly exciting. We were certainly not expecting Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down” to be in a movie like this. It’s somewhat niche, and a perfect piece to showcase the taste of the music of this generation.
The comedy itself is natural and lighthearted, and a breath of fresh air compared to most modern comedies. Many comedies shovel humor onto the audience, in an almost forceful barrage of subpar jokes, hoping one will land. This isn’t the case with this film, as most jokes landed, and it wasn’t oversaturated.
However, there are a couple of odd choices made throughout the film. There’s a point in the movie when it suddenly changed to stop motion. Perhaps the humor is in the transition itself, but for the most part, it felt out of place.
There were moments when we thought the narrative would become more chaotic, in a similar way to “Project X,” but surprisingly, it became more contained as the movie went on.
While there are some strange elements to the movie, and it’s definitely tailored toward millennials, it’s certainly an impressive directorial debut movie from Wilde, and Feldstein and Dever also show they have the potential for bigger projects.