Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Recently, I viewed Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Denver. This film now stands as one of my favorite coming of age films, and reiterates the importance of the strong female lead and women filmmakers.
Over the past year, we have encountered many new stories for young women to connect to (Lady Bird (Gerwig, 2017), Eighth Grade (Burnham, 2018)). But, personally I have felt disconnected to these stories, until now. Booksmart is the story of Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Denver) as they attempt to enjoy at least one night of partying before they graduate high school. This film highlights the dedication to school many young women feel they need to have in order to be successful, and the stress that comes in recognizing the power within our femininity to be able to make choices that make us happy.
Diving into the main characters briefly, I believe that not only do they have an amazing dynamic as friends, but also as two leads we do not often see. Amy, finds herself at a crossroads early on due to her crush on another student, Ryan. That being said, the exploration into a lesbian character like Amy occurs so naturally; there is no push for her sexuality to be overanalyzed or discussed in depth that patronizes both the lesbian community and the viewer. Having a character like Amy just get to discover herself without her sexuality being the only plot of the movie is a huge step up in terms of representation. Molly is a character I felt so personally connected to; which is such a huge change for me as a film viewer. Molly is a dedicated young feminist. She is smart, and doesn’t let negativity hold her back. I know it seems like it shouldn’t be such an important thing, but seeing an overweight character as the lead in a film, and her weight having nothing to do with her progression as a character was something I have wanted to see since I was little. Not once did her weight become an issue, or prevent her from doing what she wanted. I know if I saw characters like her when I was growing up, I would have a totally different perspective on who I am now.
This film was beyond witty, and never lacking in style. I was laughing out loud, crying, and applauding what was unfolding in front of me. Not only were the leads just fantastic, we also have amazing featured performances from Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and so many more. This film was not just dialogue and a few scenic backgrounds, it featured such amazing editing that drew me in and kept me invested through out. It’s dialogue was unique, and most importantly, it felt real. This was not a film about high school girls with conversations that felt forced and unnatural. I saw something that did not lack in character and honesty.
To me, Booksmart felt like I was watching a dramatized piece of my own life. At times I felt almost overwhelmed by how much I saw my own intrapersonal thought displayed on screen; the pain of seeing someone you want with another person, saying goodbye to your best friend. These things in high school seem trivial, especially for a young woman who’s goals and aspirations are so tightly manifested that if any crack comes through, we feel ourselves crumble. Like for many women around my age, all I’ve head is how Booksmart truly made them feel seen and connected. Being that I graduated so recently from high school, a part of me always misses the natural camaraderie that the student body has, and the comfort we feel in our home town. This film taught me closure within that world, and allowed me to accept and look forward to the future I so delicately set up for myself.