Finding a new film that you like enough to start recommending it to everyone you come across is one thing, but seeing a new film and falling in love with it is a rare experience. It’s like making a new friend, discovering that you have shared interests and understanding each other’s feelings. And that’s what Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart feels like to me.
There is so much to love about this female-led comedy, that I feel compelled to write about why I love it and why I think it’s an achievement in feminist filmmaking.
I have never felt this represented in a movie before until I saw Amy and Molly in Booksmart. Sure, I didn’t attend Harvard or the U.K. version of Harvard, or a top university at all…ok fine, I might not be anywhere near as clever and well-read as Amy and Molly; however I really admired how they focused on their studies in school in order to get into good colleges. They are goal-orientated and intelligent teenage girls, which I don’t feel there is enough of in mainstream films.
Teenage girls especially tend to be two-dimensional. Typical high-school tropes for teenagers include: nerdy = uncool, attractive = dumb, popular = a bitch, sexually active = weird, drug addict = mentally unstable. But Booksmart throws these ancient stereotypes into the trash. The popular girls are smart! The sexually active girls are popular and smart! The drug obsessed girl is a really loyal friend! It’s so refreshing to see well-written teenagers.
In a similar vein, I love how Amy is portrayed. Amy is a lesbian, but not in a Love, Simon kinda way where the film focuses on Amy’s sexuality. In Booksmart, Amy came out a few years before and is comfortable with her sexuality. Even better, no one comments on her sexuality as if it’s out of the ordinary. This comes from the characters being 18 year olds in 2019, a time where generation Z are naturally more accepting and embracing of the LGBT community compared to older generations.
I can’t speak for the LGBT community and say that this is a great representation of a teenage lesbian, but I’m hoping Amy is received positively and I will be looking out for reviews and opinions from these voices once the film is released.
There is a serious lack of teenage girls talking about wanking in film. Yet almost every film focused on teenage boys features a minimum of one wanking joke, if not more. There’s a moment in Booksmart where Molly talks to Amy about masturbating, which is referred to a couple more times in the film and it feels good to see it normalised.
I also appreciated the moments where Amy and Molly discuss sex (specifically lesbian sex), watch porn to see sex, one of them almost has sex, and overall embrace their sexuality. They are 18 year old liberated women who are very close; it would be unrealistic if they didn’t discuss sex.
Beanie Feldstein is a treasure. I’m already inspired by her as an incredibly talented performer and role model, but in Booksmart Feldstein proves that she’s a natural comedienne too. I hope she takes over the world. Kaitlyn Dever is equally as impressive, though it’s not surprising given her excellent performance in Short Term 12 a few years ago. For both these leading ladies, Booksmart is their career defining moment that I hope brings them even bigger and better roles.
And though she’s not in it nearly enough, Billie Lourd steals every scene she’s in and I love her.
Women behind the camera
A significant note to make about Booksmart is that there are not only lots of well-written women in front of the camera; there are women all over this film. From being written by women, produced by mostly women and directed by Olivia Wilde in her debut. Though Wilde and the crew may not have had social media when they were teens, Booksmart is still an authentic depiction of what it’s like being a teenage girl. It’s smart, witty, hilarious, emotional, beautiful, and relatable, and it all comes from the brilliant people behind the film which I’m glad to see featured a lot of women.
Booksmart ticks all the boxes of a feminist film: it passes the the Bechdel test, it has women talking about sex, a lot the film crew are female, the female characters are well-written, and it’s a fantastic representation of female friendships. Personally, I also classify a film as being feminist if one or more characters in the film are not only well-written but have realistic flaws, and Amy and Molly definitely have human flaws that a lot of us would share. And it’s for these reasons, that I fell in love with Booksmart.
If I were to compare it to Lady Bird, another recent coming of age film that I adore, Booksmart is the funny, cool, more mature older cousin of Greta Gerwig’s Oscar nominated comedy drama. Both are exceptional examples of film-making and I can’t find faults with either of them.
I am counting down the days until I can see it again.
Booksmart is out 27th May in the UK.
PREPARE TO GET CONSENSUALLY BASHED!