Molly and Amy are best friends who have spent their high school careers focusing on getting the best possible grades so they can get into the best possible colleges and kickstart their bright futures.
The day before graduation Molly is in a toilet cubicle and overhears some students joking about her nerdy status. She challenges them, boasting that she will be heading off to Yale while they will probably end up in crappy jobs because they’ve spent their time partying.
Then the revelation comes — they, too, have been accepted at excellent colleges or been headhunted for top jobs at Google. “We care about school,” they retort. “We just don’t ONLY care about school.”
Molly’s world view falls apart as she realises she and Amy could have had the social life they missed after all.
They have one last chance to party like the best of them — by crashing a house party that night. And so begins their quest, first to find the right outfits, then to evade their parents, then to find the party.
So far, so familiar. Booksmart stands in a long tradition of American high school comedies, specifically ones that centre on a Big Party. But it also feels entirely new because — and it’s ridiculous that this should be noteworthy in 2019 — the two leads are young women who are funny, clever, value their friendship and support each other.
In John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles (1984) a drunk girl is passed around at a party so that the “geek” can lose his virginity. I actually couldn’t get through Judd Apatow’s Superbad (2007), as I struggled to invest in the two main characters, whose plan for the night was: “You know when women say ‘Oh man I got so shitfaced last night and I should never have made it with that guy’? Well, that could be us! We could be that mistake!”
So it was genuinely refreshing and fun to watch a comedy in which there were no moments that made me cringe — only hilarious dialogue, physical comedy and bodily fluids aplenty. As a first time director Olivia Cooke has produced a shiny, well-paced escapade.
Molly and Amy exemplify “progressive” America. From the “Everyone should be a feminist” poster to the “Warren 2020” bumper sticker; their love of the Obamas to their love of Gilmore Girls (and for any GG fans reading this, it’s basically a film about two Rorys).
And this is reflected throughout the world of the film. There are no nasty characters. No Mean Girls. No one is bigoted — Amy is gay and has been out for two years. Everyone knows; no one cares. No one is ill, or depressed, or poor — with the possible exception of the teacher who moonlights as an Uber driver.
For all the problems one could raise with John Hughes’s films, they did acknowledge class. The only barrier to everyone getting along — and getting ahead — in Booksmart is misunderstanding.
This is a world in which everyone can get into an Ivy League college and no one is worrying about the fees.
Booksmart constructs a fantasy world, but a warm and fluffy and, most importantly, a laugh-out-loud funny one. It’s an hour and three-quarter long holiday from Trump’s America. And who could begrudge anyone that?