Booksmart, in its marketing and otherwise, keeps getting referred to as “Superbad, but for girls.” And there are some notable similarities between the two coming-of-age films. Both pairs of friends won’t be satiated until they get to The Big Cool Party, and the hilarity that ensues along the way derives from the sticky situations only teenagers can find themselves in. Even the titles sound similar (by no mistake, we’re sure).
Superbad was a well-reviewed and widely enjoyed film. It came out in 2007 and fit in with many of the other coming-of-age teen comedies of its time, only it was funnier. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the script was loosely based on the writing partners’ personal experiences in high school (it’s why the characters have their names). The movie was funny in a way that only a script based on true, personal events can be. Jonah Hill played Seth and Michael Cera played Evan, and the two actors had fantastically funny chemistry.
‘Booksmart’ changes the game
Flash forward twelve years later and Booksmart makes its debut. The film is Olivia Wilde’s first go at directing and audiences everywhere are hoping it won’t be her last. With creative moves like a claymation scene, a hilarious dance sequence, and uncharacteristically (for a teen buddy comedy) beautiful cinematography to highlight the more dramatic moments, Wilde proves herself to be a beacon of creativity in a progressively reliant-on-old-tropes genre.
The leads, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have chemistry and natural comedy chops that rival Hill’s and Cera’s. Fun fact: Feldstein is actually Hill’s younger sister (comedy certainly runs in the family). It’s a particular delight to watch Amy and Molly go through their routine of complimenting one another with each new outfit they don in the film. Like everything else in the movie, their love and support for one another feel real, probably because it was penned by a team of women writers who know what female friendship actually looks like.
In a movie that’s filled with posters of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, conversations about gender and identity politics, and general “woke” speak, it would have been so easy for the dialogue of Booksmart to come off unauthentic. The best teen comedies feel as though they’re being told through the perspective of the teenagers in the film, and yet, so many stories in this genre feel as though they are, unmistakably, written by adults–adults who don’t really get it–for teenagers. What sets Booksmart apart is its ability to use the language of high schoolers today with integrity; its ability to create fully realized characters who are interesting and kind and figuring it out as they go.
Booksmart is so much more than the Superbad for girls. It’s the coming-of-age teen comedy that young people deserve. Save for a few films like Eighth Grade, Blockers, and Love, Simon, there hasn’t been a movie of this genre for a while that truly does this generation of young people any justice. It’s possible to tell an interesting and hilarious story about teenagers figuring their lives out that doesn’t rely on such pillars as “the jock,” “the popular girl,” “the bad boy,” “the geek.” Maybe, for a change, the geek hooks up with the hot popular lesbian on a bathroom floor and throws up on her just when things start to get good.
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