A couple times a year I go to a film without knowing any more than what I can get from a movie poster, a pick made without the influence of any marketing, word-of-mouth, or star draw. It’s rare but so much fun when a cold pick turns out to be as good as Booksmart.
It’s not clear to me what use I have for another teen coming-of-age movie. I’m pushing fifty: how many of these do I really need to see in my life? But these kids made it worth my while. It was rejuvenating to empathize with them for a couple hours. Booksmart is a gem, and reminded me of what a cheerful, sassy surprise Pitch Perfect was. Olivia Wilde directs like a boss, apparently, and I don’t think any actor was ever off-key. The script is crafty, the humour is smart, and these young people give me hope for the future.
The premise of the film is that a couple of overachieving academic nerds on the cusp of high school graduation discover that some of their partying peers have have somehow been juggling both ambition and fun. This blows their minds, and they quickly learn the lesson: by the time they graduate they have discovered that there’s more to being smart than books, and that everyone around them is more complicated and interested than they thought.
I relate to their naivete, but not to their rapid reform! That is a lesson that took me much longer to learn. I was a precocious and elitist kid, and I had to work my way through a long, painful series of humiliations before I finally realized that the world was populated with plenty of other people who were just as capable as I was and (!) some of them much more so.