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Booksmart

Year: 2019
Studio: Annapurna
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writer: Emily Halpern/Sarah Haskins/Susanna Fogel/Katie Silberman
Cast: Bernie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Skyler Gisondo, Billie Lourd, Maya Rudolph

Another one I'd normally not be the least bit interested in, but which had so many great reviews I took the plunge. Thankfully it eschews the teen movie tropes I can't stand (grown ups and parents are all idiots who don't know anything) and embraces ones that are universal while also being very particular to the age group depicted, where a lot of the daily concerns that grip the characters is wonder/worry about what will become of them and who they'll become as they embark on adulthood.

Amy (Kaitlyn Deaver) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are lifelong best friends joined at the hip who've always been pretty straight laced about their studies and academic careers, looking down with superiority at their party-mad peers for the time and effort they're wasting instead of making something of themselves.

It's the last day of school and both girls are looking forward to the success they're going to make of their lives as they go to prestigious colleges, but Molly overhears a disturbing conversation in the bathroom and when she asks all the kids they know, her worst suspicions are confirmed.

Despite spending all their time drinking and partying, the nerds, jocks and misfits are all going to prestigious schools as well. To Molly's horror, she realises her and Amy could have been having as much fun and been getting into as much trouble as anyone else and still have bright futures.

She resolves to do something about it, telling Amy they're going to the epic end of high school party that's going on in the neighbourhood that very night. She runs roughshod over Amy, the gentler and quieter of the pair, who has no choice but to go along with the cockamamie scheme Molly comes up with to buy booze, find where the party is, and rip the night up.

The plot concerns them trying to figure out where it is and making several mistaken and amusing pitstops along the way. They arrive at an opulent mansion they think is the right place only to find their other friends, a group of extreme theatre nerds, are hosting a elegantly costumed murder-in-the-dark style evening.

They get a rideshare and it turns out their driver is their scruffy school principal (Jason Sudeikis), an encounter that can't turn out to be anything other than kind of creepy – though not in the way you expect. They talk a pizza delivery guy into driving them around after trying (very unsuccessfully) to pose as carjackers.

The girls eventually reach the party and all the wonderful things they've been imagining start to happen... until they don't, it all falls apart and their friendship is sorely tested.

In different hands it could have been far less endearing, and for all the plaudits heaped upon Olivia Wilde as director there's not a great deal for her to do but stage the action and point a camera at it (although there are some very visually striking sequences you don't usually see in this genre and a unique style comes to the surface more than once – the underwater swimming scene is quite beautiful).

What she does deserve outsized credit for however is casting. As the sweet Amy and the boisterous, confident Molly, Deaver and Feldstein are a joy to watch – the premise and story hardly matter in the face of their riffing and banter. It feels like very little of their lifelong connection and love for each other was actually written into the script apart from a few loose gag ideas, that Wilde just yelled 'action' and told them to go for it.

The result is a friendship as beautiful and which feels as real as you've ever seen from two actresses of such a young age. They're both gorgeous, funny, prickly, awkward and very present, and every quality they have as individuals only heightens and enhances the fireworks between them. As a comic double act they might remind you of some of the greats from cinema history.

The actual tale being told didn't interest me a great deal and that's no criticism of the film, it's probably got more to do with my age and gender. But I'd watch those to young women play those two characters in any other story they appeared in.

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