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“Booksmart” Is The Best Film Of The Year So Far

Stand at attention, ladies and gentlemen. Believe the hype. Actress turned filmmaker Olivia Wilde is here to dominate Hollywood with her directorial debut. Opening this week, after a much heralded debut at SXSW, Booksmart is not just the funniest movie of 2019, it’s the best overall too. Wilde and company make magic with a premise that could have seemed utterly rote. Instead, it’s fresh, lively, and full of spirit that delights from start to finish. The comedy, the relationship building, the character work, it’s all top notch. Seeing is believing here. However wonderful you think this flick is, I can assure you that it’s even better than that.

The film is high school coming of age comedy, which admittedly has been done to death. Here, however, it’s given a female spin, while also being imbued with some real intelligence. Throughout high school Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) have been best friends, academic studs, and pretty much their only companions. The valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, they’ve spent every waking moment making sure they’d get into top tier schools. They’ve succeeded, of course, but on the eve of graduation, Molly discovers that the sexually active and party animal classmates like Triple A (Molly Gordon) are going to amazing colleges as well. Thrown for a loop, she insists that Amy must go out with her and get all their partying out. What follows is a zany night that includes repeated encounters with a spacey classmate in Gigi (Billie Lourd), an awkward rich kid in Jared (Skyler Gisondo), and numerous other characters. The less said about some of the moments, the better, as the surprise is part of what makes it such a laugh riot. Wilde directs a screenplay by Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman. Cinematography is by Jason McCormick, while the score comes from Dan Nakamura, also known as Dan the Automator. The rest of the cast includes Will Forte, Eduardo Franco, Lisa Kudrow, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Diana Silvers, Jason Sudeikis, Jessica Williams, and more.

Hilarious and intelligent in equal measure, Booksmart is the best film of 2019 so far, establishing Olivia Wilde as a powerhouse director in the process. Casting Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as the leads of their own comedy was a stroke of genius. They deliver full throated laughter and realistic high school character development. Their chemistry is fantastic, as is the growth they exhibit throughout. Wilde trusts them to ace material, and they 100% do. Her pacing is pitch perfect as well, fueling the just over 100 minute outing with the perfect amount of momentum. I would have watched another hour of their antics, easily.

Wilde displays utter confidence from the director’s chair. She leans in to the raunchy jokes, the witty comments, and the actual smartness of each character. Everyone has depth and layers, even small supporting players. Dever’s Amy and Feldstein’s Molly are incredibly three dimensional and some of the best characters of 2019, but it extends even to Gisondo’s Jared and Lourd’s Gigi, among others. It’s just such a ridiculously satisfying movie. The acting, Wilde’s direction, and the script from Fogel, Halpern, Haskins, and Silberman all combine for something that stands tall among the offerings of the year to date. It really is in a class all its own.

This Friday, an absolute modern classic is opening in Booksmart. The movie is 2019’s best so far, a jolt of freshness that should immediately make Dever, Feldstein, and Wilde incredibly in demand. I’ve been banging the drum for Dever for years now, so it’s personally a fulfilling moment to see others come around and recognize her greatness. Beyond that, this is just cinematic perfection. I saw it about a month or so ago and have been waiting patiently to rave. Now, with that done, it’s time for you all to see just how phenomenal this is. Run, don’t walk, to see this flick. You’ll be glad that you did…

Be sure to check out Booksmart, in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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