BOOKSMART

★★★★

SAY HELLO TO THE NEXT GREAT VOICE IN FEMALE FILMMAKING

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
1st June 2019

First it was ‘The Edge of Seventeen’, then came ‘Lady Bird’, and now it’s ‘Booksmart’s' turn. Welcome to the dawning of the era of incredible first time (solo) female filmmakers delivering glorious, powerful, young female-led stories. What a time to be alive!

Meet Amy (Kaitlyn Dever, ‘Short Term 12’) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein, ‘Lady Bird’) - BFFs who have spent their entire scholastic career working hard to ensure entrance into good colleges, at the expense of their social lives. On the eve of their high school graduation, they learn that their hard partying, overly-sexual peers have also gained entry into top schools, successfully experiencing both sides of adolescent life. Shaken to their core, Molly and Amy decide to attend the biggest party on offer by any means necessary... if only they knew the address. Hijinx, mayhem, some light drug use, a murder mystery, a Lyft ride they’ll never forget, and the pursuit of romantic dalliances ensue to complete their high school experience - what usually takes people years, these gals are doing in one night.

SWITCH: 'BOOKSMART' TRAILER

We were introduced to Olivia Wilde back in the early 2000s when she played Marissa’s love interest on ‘The O.C.’. We got to know her when she played Thirteen for five years on ‘House’, and we fell in love with her thanks to films like ‘Butter’, ‘Drinking Buddies’ and ‘Year One’. All those years starring in dramas and quirky comedies, she'd secretly been cultivating an incredible sense of comedic timing, an eye for nuanced characters and storytelling, and a passion for female stories - all of which have came together in her directorial debut ‘Booksmart’. Collecting a flurry of soon-to-be-household names such as Feldstein, Dever, Skyler Gizondo (Netflix's ‘Santa Clarita Diet’) Billie Lourd (TV's ‘Scream Queens’), Molly Gordon (TV’s ‘Animal Kingdom’), Mason Gooding (TV's ‘Ballers’), Diana Silvers, Jessica Williams (TV's ‘The Daily Show’) and Eduardo Franco (Netflix's ‘American Vandal’) - just to name a few - who all pack hilarious, scene-chewing, powerhouse performances that help create what will inevitably become a cult classic.

Olivia Wilde has been cultivating an incredible sense of comedic timing, an eye for nuanced characters and storytelling, and a passion for female stories - all of which have came together in her directorial debut.

For decades, young female audiences has amassed a knowledge of male relationships and sexuality that they never wanted nor asked for thanks to films like ‘American Pie’, ‘Superbad’ and even ‘Porky's’, all of which have helped to perpetuate the idea that women aren’t allowed to express their own wants and needs. Now, the tables have turned. Smart and highly academic Molly and Amy are never showcased as “nerds” but multi-layered women still figuring things out, while also talking about and exploring their own bodies and needs. They openly discuss masturbation, flirtation, attraction and their wants from both a heterosexual and homosexual stance, as Amy is a queer character - one of many featured in 'Booksmart', in fact. It’s also a nice change of tact to never have to see Amy “come out” or be bullied - her sexuality is there from the beginning, it is fact, and we simply get to see her being a regular teenager, experiencing and developing, just with a girl on the other side of her romantic attention instead of a boy. Amy’s sexuality is never seen as special, just normal, as it should be. At last!

‘Booksmart’ is a fun, hilarious, and instantly and infinitely quotable film, making it a must-see for all ages and sexes. But most importantly, it’s exciting. Olivia Wilde has here proven herself to be a fantastic new voice in filmmaking, and she’s brought along screenwriters Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman for the ride. One can only imagine the excellence they’ll produce in the future and if they keep discovering new onscreen talent as well, there’s no stopping them. Girl power!

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
RELATEDLADY BIRDThis is the best version of herself
RELATEDTHE EDGE OF SEVENTEENFunny & heartbreaking
RELATEDPITCH PERFECTIrresistibly fun
RELATEDTHE FAULT IN OUR STARSThere will be tears
TRENDINGWIN THE NIGHTINGALEA dark, vengeful song
TRENDINGWIN AMAZING GRACEA stunning moment from Aretha Franklin's life
TRENDINGPORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIREA perfect film on the language of desire
TRENDINGONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOODAnother Tarantino classic
TRENDINGTHE AUSTRALIAN DREAMThe conversation Australia needs to have
TRENDINGCERULEAN BLUEPromising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
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