It’s been a few hours since the preview and I’m still sitting in awe every time I try to write something about Booksmart. I’m genuinely dumbfounded.
Booksmart has no right to be as funny, warm and real as it is but it’s there and I’m not too sure what to do about it.
Do I need to call the police?
I don’t think I’ve been this surprised about a movie coming so out of left field since The Emperor’s New Groove graced screens back in the noughties. That might not sound like much but who really predicted a movie which had David Spade take on the role of an entitled talking llama price was going to be that funny?
Booksmart has a similar mantel. Who expects another teen coming of age party film to be that funny?
I turned to my friend once the film had ended and we both just looked at each other in a sort of stunned silence for a moment. “Well, that movie was excellent.” said one of our voices eventually. I honestly don’t remember who broke first but I know the reply went something like “Yeah it really was. What a ride.”
The story that takes you on the aforementioned ride is such a simple one. It’s about not missing out on youth or having regrets and proving you can be fun and smart. This takes form in two nerd’s hunt for the last chance at a party in their senior year.
They’ve just learned that all their hard work really only put them at the same level as their peers who still partied and they want a taste of that sweet party pie.
Of course, these things are never allowed to be easy. The first half of the movie has a meandering journey while unexpected shenanigans get in the way of finding this perfect party pastry. It almost has a Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle vibe but less silly, fewer burgers and I’d say, a fair bit funnier.
The stakes are never particularly high and it doesn’t bother venturing into stressful territory. Just a weirdly fun adventure of what must be one of the longest nights in cinema history – and possibly one of the best, funniest, and smartest set to a killer soundtrack.
It’s a good adage to never judge a book by its cover and the same goes for Booksmart. It’s hard to know what to expect from a somewhat indie coming of age comedy revolving around high school parties.
I suppose I expected a lower brow of humour or maybe just more corn in the cheese. It’s not to say Booksmart doesn’t have those kinds of jokes or heartwarming lines it just does them so well that they simply feel organic.
When Booksmart does go for the low brow, it does so with so much gusto that we may as well call it a merkin. Sometimes this came off as a bit harsh or crass but it was saved by the humanity of the cast.
The fantastic performances by the whole cast feel alive and real but also larger than life. There are stereotypes, sex jokes, and even drug trip gone wrong but none of it feels stale or predictable. Perhaps best of all, none of it feels hurtful.
Every character was treated with respect, even the ones you kind of didn’t want to. Booksmart turns on you, making you feel bad for not wanting to respect those genuine human beings. Then, just to prove that you and it are still cool after this serious talking to, it gives you a fantastic laugh you’d never expect.
Tension and Release
Comedy is often played as a sort of tension and release. There are the awkward long holds followed by the sobering release of the punchline. Booksmart is an absolute master class at this and I say that as someone who has trouble with awkward comedies.
I cringe while watching certain parts of shows like The Office and once famously rocked back and forth covering my ears chanting “It’s not real, it’s just TV” during an episode of Peep Show.
Booksmart had me covering my face and mouth due to the incredible tension fairly regularly. However, it always released in such a perfect way that the resulting laugh was so pure and real and unexpected that I didn’t mind. I don’t think I’ve felt such great comedic payoff from a movie in a very long time.
There were some jokes that dragged a touch and overstayed their welcome but they were still usually amusing, just a bit long. Sometimes moments of back and forth between the two leads especially could have been cut back. Even in these times, the finishing joke to cap off the scene usually still made the wait worth it, even if it could have been shorter with similar results.
But I think what I keep coming back to is the characters. There’s so much love and care between the two female leads. They’re both equally funny whether they’re poking fun, being supportive, or just being human. It feels like a real and strong friendship, the kind you might look at and quietly whisper ‘goals’ to yourself in a crowded cinema.
The kind that might make you a little bit sad that you’ve never really had. Or that you later decide is only in the movies, for self-preservation reasons.
Again, the whole lineup felt like genuine people who could have been easily fleshed out. There’s a vibrancy and life about these people and this world that just felt fun to be around and the movie is genuinely compassionate towards them.
I remember thinking that I wish the people I went to high school with were this interesting and I realised that’s kind of the point. They probably were, they’re actually people, after all.
Booksmart shows us that everyone has a back story and that it’s pretty uncommon for people to be bad or good. We’re just people, and people can be a lot more than what you see at first glance or give them credit for.
For a movie that’s so genuinely hilarious, it’s also caused me to spend some time wondering what I’d learn about my peers if I took the time to do so. If didn’t shy away from parties or jump to potentially unwarranted conclusions, especially in high school.
There’s so much value that I never got to see in people because I was such a scared, focussed arsehole. I genuinely wish I’d seen this movie while I still had the chance to learn this lesson.
It’s never too late but I still wish I’d seen it sooner. Everyone else should learn from this and get on it asap. Not only because it is genuinely the most fun I’ve had in a cinema in a long time but also, to minimise your own regrets.
Hope Corrigan attended a preview screening of Booksmart as a guest of Universal.
Movie title: Booksmart
Movie description: On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.