Booksmart ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

An undeniably satisfying albeit pat comedy about two high school seniors coming to terms with their identities under the looming countdown of graduation. We owe a huge debt of thanks to Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever whose natural charisma turns the movie up a notch; despite operating under a very familiar narrative template, they manage to make this feel fresh.

I will readily admit to being shocked by the scene in the bathroom where Molly confronts the classmates she hears talking shit. It's one of the few moments in the movie that doesn't feel predictable. Rather than give Molly the high ground, the movie does the complete opposite; her classmates completely decimate her, exhibiting a surprising amount of contempt for her. It's an abrupt tonal shift that is clearly intended to function as the impetus for the rest of the movie, but instead puts the protagonists in a place of near irreconcilable disfavor. However, like most of the conflict in this movie, it isn't meaningfully engaged with and is completely excised by the end, sooo you might as well forget about it.

I'm a sucker for movies set over the course of one night and while the hijinks Molly and Amy get into feel a little uninspired, it still entertains with ease. I can't say I was thrilled when the movie devolves into what is essentially a series of pop music needle drops that play over people moving in slow motion. It's fun once maybe twice, but there's an entire act of the movie where we're no longer watching a story, but watching montages of benign, formulaic "high school party" scenarios. This is particularly frustrating because it takes away the best thing about the movie: the rapport between Amy and Molly and their attempts (failed and successful) at having a good time.

Even more frustrating that the movie completely botches some really great moments. The scene where Amy swims under water and looks at all the legs of the girls in the pool is sooo fucking good. It feels new, evocative, and helps mark a real moment of growth for her. Unfortunately, the scene goes on too long and ends up feeling like a music video! She comes up from the water and then goes back under and it really ruins the rhythm of the scene. Another botched moment? The boiling over moment between Amy and Molly. It starts out strong, but then the dialogue goes away so the movie can show them fighting in slow mo with no actual dialogue. It's such a cheat, a deflection, a way to get out of writing what should have been a crucial moment for the film. Instead, the movie shies away from it. Bummer.

But I get it, though. It's not hard to see that this movie isn't aspiring to be a perfectly written coming-of-age story; it's a comedy! How else could you justify how terribly one-dimensional every secondary character in this movie is! Yikes! What a waste of Lisa Kudrow, too. The long and short of it is Booksmart is an exceedingly confident studio comedy that works thanks to its two esteemed leads. MVP is Billie Lourd, though. Make a movie about her.

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