Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Olivia Wilde|
|Music by||Dan the Automator|
|Distributed by||United Artists Releasing|
|Box office||$21.2 million|
Booksmart is a 2019 American coming-of-age comedy film directed by Olivia Wilde (in her feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman. It stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two graduating high school girls who set out to finally break the rules and party on their last day of classes; Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis also star. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay executive produced the film through Gloria Sanchez Productions.
Amy and Molly are two high school seniors who have been best friends since childhood but considered pretentious by their peers. Amy has been out for two years and has a crush on a girl named Ryan. Molly urges Amy to attempt to forge a relationship with her before they graduate. On the eve of their high school graduation, Molly confronts some of her peers after overhearing them talking about her in the bathroom. She tells them about how she got into a good school, but they reveal that despite partying they too also got into good colleges. Molly angrily tells Amy everything and says that they should have enjoyed their time in high school more. Molly convinces a reluctant Amy to join her in going to an end-of-year party held by Nick.
The pair realize that neither of them knows where Nick's party is. Molly calls Jared, a kindhearted and wealthy classmate, who thinks that they want to go to his party. He brings them to his yacht, where they stay for a few minutes before leaving after an encounter with his drug-crazed friend Gigi. Amy suggests that they go home, having fulfilled their plan to party before graduation, but Molly calls a "Malala", their code for unconditionally doing what the other wants to do, and Amy consents to continue with the night. The girls call a Lyft and are shocked to be picked up by their principal, Jordan Brown. After accidentally playing pornography through his car speakers, Brown drops them off at their classmate George's house, but it's a murder mystery party. The two encounter Gigi again, who reveals that the food that they ate on the yacht was drugged, and both Amy and Molly soon experience a bad trip and hallucinate that they are dolls. They escape the house and get the location of the party from a pizza delivery man. Amy accidentally leaves her phone in his car. Molly's phone is nearly dead, lasting just long enough to call for help from their teacher and friend Miss Fine, who gives them a change of clothes and a ride to Nick's party.
When they arrive, Amy goes to talk to Ryan and Molly goes to talk to Nick, her crush. Amy finds Ryan making out with Nick; embarrassed, Amy wants to leave, calling her own Malala, but Molly refuses to grant it, thinking she has a chance with Nick. This sends Amy into a rage. She reveals that she was planning on taking a gap year to travel to Botswana, as she resents how Molly always tries to take control her life. The two loudly argue in front of their classmates, and Amy goes to the bathroom with a panic attack. She is found by Hope, whom many students find cruel. They are at first combative towards each other, but then Amy kisses Hope and they almost have sex but Amy vomits on her, ruining their moment. Molly is driven home by Triple A, a popular student with a reputation for promiscuity, and the two bond over the stereotypes that both have suffered from.
Molly wakes up on graduation day feeling ashamed of what happened between her and Amy. She discovers on her phone that everyone is talking about how cool Amy was for distracting police officers when they came to shut down Nick's party. Molly visits Amy in jail and apologizes for her manipulative actions, leading to the pair's reconciliation. The two discover that the pizza driver was a serial killer and they trade their information to get Amy out of jail. They take Jared's car to graduation where Molly gives an improvised farewell speech and kisses Jared, receiving a round of applause.
A few days later, Molly helps Amy prepare for her trip to Botswana. Hope comes to the door and gives Amy her number. Molly drives Amy to the airport and they share a tearful goodbye. As Molly drives away, Amy jumps in front of her car, saying she has time to hang out before her flight, suggesting they get pancakes.
- Beanie Feldstein as Molly Davidson
- Kaitlyn Dever as Amy Antsler
- Jessica Williams as Miss Fine
- Lisa Kudrow as Charmaine Antsler
- Will Forte as Doug Antsler
- Jason Sudeikis as Jordan Brown
- Billie Lourd as Gigi
- Diana Silvers as Hope
- Skyler Gisondo as Jared
- Molly Gordon as "Triple A" (Annabelle)
- Noah Galvin as George
- Austin Crute as Alan
- Victoria Ruesga as Ryan
- Eduardo Franco as Theo
- Nico Hiraga as Tanner
- Mason Gooding as Nick Howland
- Mike O'Brien as Pat the Pizza Guy
- Bluesy Burke as Cindy
- Christopher Avila as Rob
- Stephanie Styles as Alison
- Adam Simon Krist as Dick
- Gideon Lang as Skip
- Maya Rudolph as Motivational Voice
An early version of the screenplay, Book Smart by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, was circulated in 2009 and appeared on the 2009 Black List; in 2014 Susanna Fogel revised the screenplay, rewriting one lead character as a lesbian and revising the story so the girls are not seeking boyfriends for the prom, but are going to an after-prom party.
Following the revisions, Annapurna Pictures purchased the screenplay and approached Gloria Sanchez Productions to produce it; Gloria Sanchez' Jessica Elbaum pitched the screenplay to Olivia Wilde, who read the screenplay and two days later expressed admiration for it. Megan Ellison, Chelsea Bernard, David Distenfeld, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Elbaum would serve as producers on the film. Screenwriter Katie Silberman was hired for more revisions in spring 2018, and to update the story. Silberman explored a new concept:
What if the two friends realized that they did high school all wrong? What if they realized that everyone they thought just partied and wasted their high-school years were going to Ivy League schools just like them?
According to Silberman, "Olivia's mantra to all of us was that high school is war". Wilde also envisioned a "a drug trip where the girls turned into Barbie dolls" and gave Silberman the responsibility of where to incorporate it into the story.
In February 2018, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein joined the cast of the film. In May 2018, Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo joined the cast of the film. That same month, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Mike O'Brien, Mason Gooding, Noah Galvin, Diana Silvers, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Molly Gordon, and Nico Hiraga joined the cast of the film.
Silvers was initially asked to audition for Ryan, but felt her appearance was not ideal for the character and auditioned for Hope instead. Wilde also urged Feldstein and Dever to live together to develop a rapport. The two actresses were roommates in Los Angeles for ten weeks. Wilde also asked the cast to read the screenplay and signal if they found dialogue that felt "inauthentic ... [and] rewrite it in your own voice". Silberman continued to write after casting, finding it easy to come up with dialogue to fit Feldstein and Dever. Silberman particularly credited the complimentary language the characters use to Feldstein, who frequently posted "I have no breath" to Instagram.
In the United States and Canada, Booksmart was released alongside Aladdin and Brightburn, and was projected to gross around $12 million from 2,505 theaters in its four-day opening weekend. The film made $2.5 million on its first day, including $875,000 from Thursday night previews. It ended up underperforming, debuting to just $6.9 million (a four-day total of $8.7 million), finishing in sixth place. Industry publications insisted that although the targeted young female demographic did turn out to the film, it should have begun with a limited release and expanded, similar to the R-rated, female-led high school comedy Lady Bird in 2017, and that Booksmart failed to stand out in the crowded marketplace. In its second weekend the film made $3.3 million, dropping 52% and finishing in eighth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 270 reviews, with an average rating of 8.28/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 80%.
Peter Debruge of Variety praised the ensemble cast as well as Wilde's direction, calling the film "the best high school buddy comedy since Superbad". Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling it a "refreshingly original take on the raunchy coming-of-age comedy" and praising Feldstein and Dever's chemistry. A. O. Scott of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, calling it "sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid", and referring to Feldstein and Dever as "a classic comedy duo". Emily Yoshida of Vulture also gave the film a positive review, writing that it "manages to be inclusive and progressive, without being precious about anything or sacrificing an ounce of humor". Alissa Wilkinson of Vox awarded the film a score of 4/5, writing that Booksmart feels memorable and relatable because it taps into the truth that "When you’re a teenager [...] your biggest enemy is usually yourself."
Wilde was named as one of the Directors to Watch at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; she also won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
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