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Grad all over in Booksmart

Surprising, hilarious and endearing high school comedy portrays a new generation of socially conscious young people

23 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

BOOKSMART
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

THE Economist published a front-page feature a couple of months ago that was titled The Rise Of The Millennial Socialist. It wondered why young people had turned to ideas that the authors had felt were buried under the dust of the Berlin Wall – how they realised contemporary socialism is not just the continuation of 19th-century Marxism (or 20th-century Socialism) but instead looks at new ways to create a better world for all.

This hilarious and endearing high school comedy has a group of young leads who one feels the Economist’s feature writers may have been referring to: as well as having enough gags to have you wobbling with giggles 24 hours later at what you just saw, it has a deeper layer – above all, it is about the importance of empathy.

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are the best mates who have worked their socks off through high school to get the top grades they need to head to Ivy League universities.

But on the day before graduation they both have a horrible wake-up call: while they have been locked in the library their peers have managed to combine having fun with work – and have seen that there is more to life than grades.

So Amy and Molly decide to head to the most happening end-of-term party and cut loose.

This may sound simplistic, but it is anything but.

Olivia Wilde marries not only some exceptional performances – this is a cast that smashes the plot out of the park – but also offers endless surprises to the viewers. The troupe of clichéd student types we are introduced to evolve in front of our eyes, teaching us a lesson in not thinking we know someone simply because of their appearance and reputation.

Surprises pop up almost as regularly as the rat-a-tat of the jokes: look out for the animated skit at the halfway point – an absolute scream.

The film is also social history. The high school drama always reflects something unique about the time it is produced. Grease, for example, showed how in the 1970s America had begun to look back to a golden age, a pre-oil crisis 1950s where teenagers were a new invention, where rock and roll was as fresh as Danny and Sandy’s complexion.

Booksmart should fill us with hope. While some may use the term “woke” as some sneering label to undermine a generation, seen through the prism of Booksmart, it just means being kind, thoughtful, educated and motivated.

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