Film

“A Goddamn Delight”: Critics Adore ‘Booksmart’, A New Comedy Revolutionising The Teen Genre

'Booksmart' is the sweetest film to ever involve lengthy discussions about scissoring.

The new Booksmart trailer is very raunchy

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There is a whole section of the human population that are yet to see their high school experience properly put to the screen.

We’ve seen frat boys puking, fucking, holding house parties, and we’ve seen nerdy dweebs negging women, being friendzoned, and generally taking up space. But where are the great teen comedies that capture the high school experience of anyone who isn’t a straight white dude?

Well, as it has been said before, the times they are-a-changing. And Booksmart, a new comedy directed by actress Olivia Wilde, is here to herald that change.

Based on a script that has made the rounds in Hollywood for years, Booksmart follows two teenaged friends, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein, sister of Jonah Hill), who are determined to have one wild night following their graduation in order to offset their unusually chaste and sedate high school experience. As these things go in Hollywood movies, that wild night turns into a drug-and-sex fuelled odyssey, as Molly and Amy find their friendship — not to mention their self-understanding — tested and stretched.

If that all sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is: that’s been the prototype of the high school teen genre for literal decades now. But what Booksmart brings with it is an extraordinary sense of the new.

Booksmart is sensitive without being preachy

One of the main strands that critics have latched onto is the progressive seam present in Booksmart. Amy is a lesbian, but the film refuses to make a big deal out of it: as David Sims of The Atlantic notes, Booksmart has a bracing sexual frankness, and the film is appreciably nonchalant about Amy’s status as an out lesbian, albeit one who’s still working up the courage to ask her crush out on a date.” Amy is just a high schooler, and her sexuality is as treated with as little emphasis as the heterosexuality on display in Superbad is.

For Emily Yoshida of Vulture, that progressivism is so successful precisely because it doesn’t make a point of itself. According to her, the film “manages to be inclusive and progressive, without being precious about anything or sacrificing an ounce of humour.” It’s a milestone of a movie, but weirdly, a milestone that doesn’t necessarily pronounce itself as such.

It’s funny as all hell

The critic Mark Kermode once wrote that any good comedy should pass the three laugh test — as in, it should make a critic laugh out loud at least three times. By all accounts, Booksmart has sailed over that (really quite low) bar, with most critics singling out the film’s raucous and welcome sense of humour.

As one might imagine, many of the gags focus on sex and sexuality — a key setpiece involves a lesbian porn watching session that goes cringeworthily wrong. Molly Freeman of Screen Rant calls the jokes “over-the-top” and even occasionally “unbelievable.” But even still, the film never loses hold of its dramatic heart — Amy and Molly, and their irreplaceable friendship.

Speaking of which…

You will fall in love with Amy and Molly

Neither Dever nor Feldstein are new to this particular game — the latter in particular stole the show with her incredible supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird. But in Booksmart, the two cement their status as a pair of the funniest comedians working in Hollywood — a true dynamic odd couple, capable of blurting out one-liners and handling physical comedy with ease. Describing the pair’s chemistry as “instant, palpable connection”, Brian Thompson of The Young Folks highlights it as a key to the film’s instant success.

A new cult classic in the making? Certainly sounds like it.

Booksmart hits Australian cinemas on Thursday July 11, because the cinematic release schedule in this country is broken.