Mary and Kelli saw Booksmart, a new film by Olivia Wilde and had some FEELINGS about it! Spoilers for Booksmart to follow!
Mary: Hiiiiii! Today, we are very excited to talk about Booksmart, the directorial debut from Olivia Wilde!! Do you want to introduce us a little?
Kelli: Sure! So, before I saw Booksmart, I heard it described as a cross between Lady Bird and Superbad, and I think that is a fairly accurate description - though it's probably more on the Superbad end of the spectrum. The film stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as Molly and Amy, two "booksmart" best friends who realize, on the last day of their senior year, that while they were studying hard to get into good schools, all of the other kids who were partying and acting like typical teenagers... also got into good schools. Horrified by this knowledge and determined to prove to her peers that she is "fun," Molly (Feldstein) drags Amy (Dever) along with her to have one night of debauchery before they graduate.
Mary: And boy, is it a wild night.
Kelli: So, the structure of it is probably what it has the most in common with Superbad. We follow the girls from insane situation to insane situation as they try to reach their final destination: the coolest of the graduation parties.
Mary: Lots of parties, lots of weirdos, everyone trying to celebrate their last night as high schoolers! Notably, they go to a theater kid party that is styled as a murder mystery and it’s hilarious.
Kelli: Realistically, that is the party I would have been at.
Mary: Me toooo! It looked like a lot of fun.
They accidentally take drugs (of course) and both girls think about their sexuality and how they want to really experience things before college, and, maybe more importantly, a year apart.
Kelli: So, I think the first thing we can get out of the way is just to say that we both really loved this movie.
Mary: In fact, I haven't actually heard of a person who saw it and didn't love it.
Kelli: Yes, for sure.
Mary: Everyone I know loved it, and with good reason. It’s well directed, well scripted, and honestly? Just really positive. I wish I had this movie when I was a high schooler.
Kelli: Yeah. I think what this movie gets right that a lot of teen movies centered around sort-of-nerdy protagonists is that it shows us that these characters aren't actually the "good guys" 100% of the time.
Like real teenagers, they still kind of think the world revolves around them -- and also like real teenagers, they fancy themselves better than all the other real teenagers.
I related to these characters in a LOT of ways, but something that seemed particularly resonant for me was the way Molly talked about her peers. Because they have different interests than her, she is incredibly dismissive of them.
Mary: Yes, definitely, and I have FELT that.
Kelli: I was SO that kid when I was in high school. I thought that because I didn't drink or do drugs, I was smarter and more evolved than everyone else.
Mary: It’s easy to think things are “beneath” you, even when honestly everyone just has stuff they like. And it’s different stuff.
Kelli: And to lump all of these people together because they participate in a shared activity - like, all of the kids who party are equally stupid. That's what she assumes.
I love that this movie is really just about teenagers learning how to actually see each other.
Mary: Yes, and she is SHOOK to learn they are not, in fact, stupid. It’s a nice turn on the usual story, where the other students are actually stoner losers.
This movie hypothesizes that most people are self conscious and have their own things going on.
Everyone worries about how people view them.
Kelli: And that most people will surprise you, given the opportunity. I've been feeling so cynical lately about the state of humanity, and this was a rare film that seems to be saying "people are actually good" and I found myself AGREEING.
Mary: Yes! Me too! The girls already see the good in each other, though, which is something I also enjoyed. It’s refreshing to see friends who just genuinely encourage each other and pump each other up!
Kelli: Yes. One of my favorite running gags in the movie is that whenever they put on new outfits, they both stop what they're doing and basically scream compliments at each other.
Mary: We need more women supporting women!
Kelli: Yessss! Like they are shocked about how stunning each other are!
Mary: I want to incorporate this into my actual life.
Kelli: And usually what they're wearing is like, incredibly ridiculous. So they look at each other and you think they're going to be like "you look insane please take that off," but instead they're like, "oh my GOD, stop, you're STUNNING."
Mary: It's great.
Kelli: This friendship is really the emotional center of the film. Should we talk a little bit about the performances?
Mary: Yes please! We already know that I’m a Beanie stan.
Kelli: Same. I'm also a Kaitlyn stan though, ever since I saw Short Term 12.
Mary: I never saw that!
Kelli: Oh my gawd, you MUST, as a fellow Brie Larson stan. I thought Dever was excellent as well.
Mary: The whole cast was great—I felt genuinely convinced these were all teens. They aren’t Riverdale teens.
Kelli: Definitely. They're obviously heightened to comedic effect, but I like that most of them, even the cool popular ones, are still pretty awkward.
Mary: Yes, definitely! They’re all insecure and weird.
Kelli: I really enjoyed both of the leading performances for different reasons. Usually when you see a comedy duo it's like, one person is the over the top one and the other is the more straight-laced character, but I think both of these girls get to play both roles. What did you think of the way their friendship changed (or didn't change) throughout the film?
Mary: It really did and didn’t change! The underlying tension of the film is that the girls are splitting up at the end of the year to go to different schools (after Amy does a short stint abroad as a volunteer). But, in a climactic scene, after Amy has seen her crush making out with Molly’s crush and had her hopes dashed, she argues with Molly and reveals she’s actually going to be gone for a whole year.
The girls argue HARD and in front of everyone, and it’s heartbreaking, but even during this tense scene, you can still see the core of their argument is coming from their love for each other, which is wonderful and powerful. They started best friends and ended best friends and I love that.
Kelli: Me too! That scene really encapsulates that feeling of leaving high school and realizing that for the first time in your life - especially if, like me, you've been friends with the same people for a very long time - you're not going to see your best friends every day anymore. Especially when it comes to best-girl-friendship, which often comes with this idea like, we're going to do everything together and always be as close as we are now.
It actually reminded me a lot of Hulu's PEN15. Like that show, these two people are realizing that friendship gets more complicated as you grow up, and it takes actual work.
Mary: I need to watch it!
Kelli: Wow, apparently this post is also 'Kelli's Recommendation Corner.'
Mary: I think that in a lot of media for young adults we see girls in very oppositional relationships—the popular girl v the nerdy girl, competing for some guy type thing, but that’s not always what reality is like. There are so many friendships of women and girls that are just, like, -good- and built on helping each other and not tearing each other down. Like our squad!
Kelli: Totally. And I think that recently there has been a lot of really good stuff coming out about friendship between women - like PEN15, or Lady Bird. It's exciting to feel like the stories of young women are finally being told. Obviously we could use some more diversity, but you know what I mean.
Mary: I agree that we need more diversity, yes. Yes, definitely. Also notably, a woman directed this movie. Women supporting women supporting women!
Kelli: Yes! And having a female director for a comedy about women is way more rare than it should be.
Mary: There did seem to be an air of wealth in Booksmart. Lots of the teens seemed to be loaded. Living in big houses, lots of money for these parties, etc. even the kids who were supposed to be “normal” seemed rich to me.
Kelli: Yeah. I got the feeling they were living in a fancy part of LA, probably zoned for a school in a wealthy area. Of course, I know nothing about LA, but that was just my assumption. And I guess it would have been hard to deal with class and poverty on a deep level in a movie like this, which, while it does have an emotional core, is ultimately a comedy.
Mary: Yes, for sure. It wasn’t super diverse in terms of race or class. That’s not what this movie is really about though, like you say. It’s a comedy!
Kelli: Plus, there is at least a little bit of uncommon representation in the character of Amy, who is a lesbian.
Mary: Yes! Let’s talk about Amy.
Kelli: I really loved to see a story about a gay character in high school that wasn't about the struggle of coming out or being accepted - it was just about the fact that she's never been kissed.
There wasn't a single moment in the film where someone batted an eyelash at the fact that she's into girls, and while there are obviously exceptions to the rule, I think that's pretty indicative of fact that younger generations are WAY more comfortable with/accepting of queerness.
Mary: Exactly! Being gay wasn’t a source of pain or trauma for her. It is for a lot of people and that’s valid and important, but it’s also good to have stories where young gay people are just like, living their lives.
Kelli: Totally. I know that was something a lot of people were talking about when Love, Simon came out.
I think Molly gets an interesting "romance" arc too.
Mary: Yesssss. She has a crush on the popular jock, who she should by all accounts dislike. And spoiler, he’s a dick.
Kelli: Well, he's sort of a dick, but also - he's just being a teenage boy. I think there are a lot of ways this situation could have played out in any other movie. Like, in another movie he might have tried to humiliate her, or he might have just not been interested in her at all. But here, we see something that I think is a lot more realistic. He just wants to flirt with everyone.
Mary: Yes, his flirting isn’t malicious.
Kelli: For a while, we see him flirting with Molly pretty intensely, and I was sooo afraid that he was going to make some kind of joke out of it -- but no, he was conceivably into her too. I think because of the way her plot went in Lady Bird, where she ended up not having a prom date and being very upset about it, I was expecting something more like thatSo I was happy that she didn't have to feel like she wasn't good enough for him, you know?
Mary: I definitely know what you mean. He did like her! He just...also liked everyone else.
Kelli: Yes, haha. I just thought it was an interesting twist on the way it could have gone, especially in that the girl he ends up hooking up with is the girl Amy was crushing on.
Mary: There wasn’t one single fat joke in the movie, either, which is GREAT.
Kelli: For sure. Even when they're making fun of Amy in the bathroom when they don't realize she's there, they're basically like 'she's hot but GOD i hate her personality"
Mary: Yes, I was shocked that Amy’s crush (who is a skater girl who wears lots of sports bras and baggy clothes) was into dudes.
Kelli: Yep! And then Amy ends up getting with someone else entirely.
Mary: Yes! A girl she thought was mean. With a cool fringe jacket.
Kelli: Indeed. My final question is: who was your favorite minor character?
Mary: Oooooo! This is easy. The pizza delivery guy. Played by Mike O’Brian! They meet a pizza delivery guy who questions their safety protocol and it turns out he was a serial killer. Lololol Something that would only be funny in a comedy.
Kelli: YES. And actually ends up being key to the plot. Haha.
My favorite has to be Gigi, played by Billie Lourd.
Mary: Aaaah, yes, she is great, too! I’ll take anything with Billie Lourd in it.
Kelli: For sure. I just thought she was very entertaining, and I was always happy to see her back on screen (which happens a lot of times, as she seems to mysteriously show up at every single location they go to)
Mary: My final comment is that everyone should see this movie. It’s for everyone. More comedies about women that don’t demean them!
Kelli: Yes! And also, go see it WHILE IT'S IN THEATERS. Buy a ticket! This movie needs your support so that more like it get made.
Mary: YES! support the filmmakers!! Or elssse.
Kelli: I'm very excited to see what Olivia Wilde does next.
Mary: Me too, me too. Thank you for chatting about this excellent movie!
Kelli: Thank YOU. You beautiful angel.
Mary: Ohmygosh you are like so beautiful I want to cry right now. Stunning. Gorgeous.
(Trying to hype you up like in the movie! It is all true.)
Kelli: ;0; I LOVE U.
Mary: Love you tooooo!!!