Movie for the Times

Booksmart will be a high school movie for its generation, and #metoo film into the future. Release date: May 24.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein take the lead in Booksmart. Fun fact: Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s sister.

Teen movies have the opportunity to stick in the mind of the audience and both define and shape the viewer for a lifetime. Off the top of my head, I can list a half-dozen teen movies that have stood the test of time because they have managed to penetrate through to our souls. I am no longer a youth, but as an educator and a self-proclaimed film buff, I believe I can predict the teen movie of today that will last.

Booksmart is that good.

It will join the ranks of the now-classics, like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Clueless, and Mean Girls.It probably most resembles an amalgamation of Can’t Hardly Wait and Superbad. I know Can’t Hardly Wait doesn’t have the cultural significance that the others do, but it’s still a gem.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is bold enough to have what The Edge of Seventeen somehow missed, good as that movie was. The leading characters are Amy (played by Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), and we watch them realize that they spent too much time on schoolwork and not enough time on fun. They decide they need to cram four years of fun into one night before graduation.

Booksmart takes some unconventional chances. The leading characters, for example, push boundaries because they are matter-of-factly atypical. Amy is a lesbian who came out her sophomore year in high school; Molly is overweight and short. The one time Molly even hints that her stature is a hindrance, Amy slaps her in the face and tells her not to talk about herself like that. It’s a funny scene that is somehow a realization of the truth – Molly is short and heavy – and at the same time an overpowering of that truth, because Molly is smart and kind and beautiful still.

The supporting characters are quite memorable here as well, and they help the viewer breathe and take in the leading duo’s quick-witted banter. There’s the principal who drives Lyft to make ends meet and a cool teacher who goes too far with one of her students. There’s the rich kid with no friends and the oddly adorable Gigi, as well as a slew of others. All the characters’ expectations smoothly become unhinged, and therein lies the lesson, which is that you never really know what you think you know, especially at such a young age.

To end, a tip of the hat to these female leads and the female filmmakers. Turns out, John Hughes may have not known that much about what women were thinking. Now we have Booksmart to #metoo things in the right direction.

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