Amy: It isn't you who has to deal with their awkward looks when I say that I'm going to the library with you and I'm actually going to the library with you.
Whilst the film isn’t quite Bookdumb, it is far from the satirical brilliance of Election or even more populist fare like Mean Girls.
Self-righteous bookworms Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) sacrificed the usual high school fun in order to get into the best colleges. When they realise that the partying students also got into good colleges, they decide to make up for those wasted years in one final blowout, attending a popular student’s house party. Various hijinks ensure.
You can tell the film was written by committee, whereas it really needed one sharp writer. The humour is at its best when the film is satirising the two lead characters (they wear berets! They use ‘Malala’ as a code word), elements of which you may recognise in other people. No one else bears any resemblance to a real person, not even a caricature of one, and so it lacks relatability. There is relatability in the premise of cramming in your last moments of fun before everyone heads off to do their own thing but the film is too busy being a knockabout comedy to fully explore that. Sometimes it feels like we are meant to somehow take these characters seriously or relate to them.
As well as veering between satire and sincerity, Booksmart prides itself on eroding the clique concept that most, if not all, high school comedies are based on. The characters here are all individuals (albeit underwritten ones). It’s not like The Breakfast Club where obvious stereotypical characters turn out to have hidden depths- the characters can’t firmly be categorised as ‘jock’ or ‘cheerleader’. Admirable sentiment as that is, I feel that isn’t reflective of high school at all, which is rife with peer pressure and cliques. This isn’t shown as a great revelation to anyone; the characters have always been not tied down by type.
Priding yourself on rejecting stereotypes is highly hypocritical when they use that old gem, the gay bitchy drama student (we actually get two!). Lesbians are allowed to integrate without being a cliché (probably the only real groundbreaking development here is that it’s treated with exactly the same candour as a heterosexual romance) but still, gay guys must be stereotypical jokes.
Booksmart is more than happy to go for an easy laugh: if references to masturbation have you rolling in the aisles in shocked laughter and puking on someone is hilarious, you will have a ball. I wouldn’t call it a gross-out comedy as such but this is where having one writer would come in handy: rather than having one anchor, who can write a witty script, we have four people throwing a bunch of jokes.
The lead performances are good, it will go down well with the teenage market- it may even make it into the hallowed hall of Mean Girls or Heathers- but it’s not a classic.