Director: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein
There is a lot of trash out there when it comes to teen coming-of-age comedies, especially now with every streaming platform producing multiple ones a year. Booksmart stands out amongst its peers like an overachieving A+ student in a crappy public high school. Olivia Wilde nails her directorial debut by capturing all the elements that compose lasting generational teen coming-of-age comedies. Despite the number of terrible movies in the teen comedy genre, there are also some of our favorites. Movies like Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Can’t Hardly Wait, American Pie, are favorited by their respected generation.
Booksmart is the start of a new generation of teen movies embodying the word of the current teenager. Gen-Zers are smart, woke, open-minded, and hyper self-aware to social status both personally and digitally. Social media and the continuous stream of internet coolness standards shape this young generation, and their movies reflect that. The only major flaw with Booksmart is it seems built from the marketing level up. It might be too polished and too cool to accurately depict teens today, but perhaps that is by design. We live in a time where social media posts and filters dictate our personal lives. How often do we go places or do things with the social media post in mind? Booksmart is the TikTok of teen coming-of-age comedies. Older generations might not understand it at first, but the flashy, over the top sarcastic humor style is here to stay.
The stars of the film, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are hilarious and carry the movie well. It’s a breath of fresh air to see female characters navigating the cliche teenage themes of drinking, sex, and anxiety of the future in a flawed way that feels grounded in reality, even if they turn into dolls at one point in the movie. The female teen point-of-view is relatively present in teen movies (John Hughes movies starring Molly Ringwald come to mind), but Booksmart feels more genuine. Neither girl is super popular and, aside from their excellent grades, they are pretty average, just like most of us in high school.
At first watch, Booksmart might seem created only for the “meme generation,” but great teen movies are relatable to everyone, despite your current age. The contemporary setting of these movies ages well, because no matter how many years removed from high school we get, we all remember vividly what it felt like to be in that setting. Years from now, Gen-Z will watch Booksmart and feel the same way I do when I watch Can’t Hardly Wait, or American Pie or the same way others do when they watch The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink.
Rewind, rewatch and please tell me your thoughts.