Booksmart

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Booksmart
Booksmart (2019 film poster).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOlivia Wilde
Written by
Produced by
  • Megan Ellison
  • Chelsea Barnard
  • David Distenfield
  • Jessica Elbaum
  • Katie Silberman
Starring
CinematographyJason McCormick
Edited by
Music byDan the Automator
Production
companies
Distributed byUnited Artists Releasing
Release dates
  • March 10, 2019 (2019-03-10) (SXSW)
  • May 24, 2019 (2019-05-24) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$25 million[3][4]

Booksmart is a 2019 American coming-of-age buddy 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.

The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 10, 2019, and was theatrically released by United Artists Releasing in the United States on May 24, 2019. It received acclaim from critics and grossed $25 million. For her performance, Feldstein was nominated for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical at the 77th Golden Globe Awards.[5]

Plot[edit]

High school seniors Amy and Molly, longtime best friends, are accomplished students friendly with teacher Miss Fine but, with Molly being class president, they are not popular with their peers. Amy has a crush on a girl named Ryan whom Molly urges her to pursue. On the eve of graduation, Molly confronts classmates insulting her bookishness, telling them she got into Yale, but they claim that, despite their partying, they got into prestigious colleges or job recruitments. Furious, Molly tells Amy they should have enjoyed their time in high school more, and Amy reluctantly agrees to go to a graduation party held by classmate Nick.

Not knowing the party's address, Molly calls Jared, a wealthy classmate who likes her. He instead takes them to his own party aboard a yacht. Only his drug-crazed friend Gigi is there, and she feeds the girls strawberries before jumping off the yacht. Amy suggests they go home, but Molly calls a "malala", their code for unconditionally supporting what the other wants to do.

The girls call a cab and are shocked to be picked up by their principal, Jordan Brown. To prepare Amy for possible sex with Ryan, Molly insists they watch pornography, which accidentally plays through the car speakers. Brown drops them off at what they think is Nick's party but it is the home of their classmate George, who is hosting a murder mystery party. They again encounter Gigi, who reveals that the strawberries were laced with powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Amy and Molly experience a bad trip and hallucinate they are plastic fashion dolls.

They leave George's house, but Gigi tells Amy that Molly secretly likes Nick, so Amy insists they press on, so that Molly can pursue her crush on Nick. They see pizza boxes in an online video of Nick's party and acquire the address from the pizza delivery man. Molly calls their teacher, Miss Fine, who gives them a ride to Nick's party.

Once at the party, Amy and Molly are surprised to find they are warmly welcomed. Molly and Nick flirt over beer pong and Amy spends time with Ryan. Unfortunately, Amy soon finds Ryan making out with Nick. Heartbroken, she finds Molly and calls her own "Malala", which Molly refuses because she still thinks she has a chance with Nick. Amy angrily reveals she is not just spending the summer in Botswana but taking an entire gap year because she resents how Molly always tries to control her life. The two have a huge argument in front of the entire party.

Amy runs to the bathroom in tears, finding her classmate Hope. They are initially argumentative until Amy kisses her. They start to have sex, but Amy vomits on Hope. Jared and Molly have a heartfelt conversation about how no one at school really knows them. Cops arrive at the party and everyone scatters. Unable to find Amy, Molly is driven home by "Triple A", a girl student with a promiscuous reputation. They bond over the stereotyping they both have endured.

Waking up on graduation day, Molly checks her phone and discovers her classmates praising Amy for having created a diversion at the party, allowing everyone to escape while getting herself arrested. Molly visits Amy in jail and they reconcile. Learning the pizza delivery man is a serial killer, they trade information to free Amy, and they rush to attend graduation. Molly kisses Jared onstage and gives an improvised valedictorian speech, both enthusiastically applauded.

A few days later, as Amy packs for her trip to Botswana, Molly sees Hope visit and give Amy her phone number. Molly drives Amy to the airport where they share a tearful goodbye, but then Amy decides she still has time to hang out before her flight, so they ecstatically decide to get pancakes.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

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;[7] in 2014 Susanna Fogel revised the screenplay and was attached to direct the project, 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.[8]

Following the revisions, Annapurna Pictures purchased the screenplay and approached Gloria Sanchez Productions to produce it. Fogel cast Dever in the lead role. After Fogel was let go during pre-production, Gloria Sanchez' Jessica Elbaum pitched the screenplay to Olivia Wilde, who read the screenplay and two days later expressed admiration for it.[8] Megan Ellison, Chelsea Bernard, David Distenfeld, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Elbaum would serve as producers on the film.[9] Screenwriter Katie Silberman was hired for more revisions in spring 2018, and to update the story.[8][10] 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?[8]

According to Silberman, "Olivia's mantra to all of us was that high school is war".[11] Wilde also envisioned "a drug trip where the girls turned into Barbie dolls" and gave Silberman the responsibility of where to incorporate it into the story.[12]

Casting[edit]

In February 2018, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein joined the cast of the film.[13] In May 2018, Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo joined the cast of the film.[14][15] 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.[16]

Silvers was initially asked to audition for Ryan, but felt her appearance was not ideal for the character and auditioned for Hope instead.[17] Wilde also urged Feldstein and Dever to live together to develop a rapport.[18] The two actresses were roommates in Los Angeles for ten weeks.[19] 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".[19] Silberman continued to write after casting, finding it easy to come up with dialogue to fit Feldstein and Dever.[10] Silberman particularly credited the complementary language the characters use to Feldstein, who frequently posted "I have no breath" to Instagram.[12]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began in May 2018 around the San Fernando Valley.[20][21]

The research scene inside the library took place at Woodbury University.[22]

Wilde and production designer Katie Byron decorated the bedrooms seen in the film, including with trophies and depictions of prominent American women Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.[12]

The animated dolls sequence was created over five months by a team of thirty people. Wilde had voiced a character on the series BoJack Horseman and contacted ShadowMachine the animation studio behind BoJack to create the sequence. Due to script rewrites, parts of the animated scene involving a Roomba and a scene showing glitter vomit were cut from the film.[23]

Music[edit]

The score for Booksmart was composed by Dan the Automator. Although he had assisted with the scores of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and Money Monster (2016), Booksmart was the first full film score that Dan composed for a major US film.[24]

Release[edit]

Director Olivia Wilde, co-writer Katie Silberman, and producer Jessica Elbaum at the South by Southwest Booksmart panel

Booksmart premiered at the South by Southwest film festival on March 10, 2019.[25] It was then released theatrically in the United States on May 24, 2019 by Annapurna Pictures under its United Artists label. United Artists also utilized an Instagram campaign to sell tickets to a total of 800 advanced screenings across the country on May 17, 2019.[26] While some film analysts predicted that Booksmart would have its theatrical release in the fall, following the trend of previous R-rated, female-centered films Lady Bird and The Edge of Seventeen, Annapurna decided on a wide release over Memorial Day weekend in order to build on the word-of-mouth traction they had generated from the festival premiere.[27] Booksmart was released on digital download on August 20, 2019, and on DVD and Blu-ray on September 3, 2019.[28]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Booksmart grossed $22.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $24.9 million.[3][4]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31][32][30][2] In its second weekend the film made $3.3 million, dropping 52% and finishing in eighth.[33]

The film's largest market outside North America was the United Kingdom, where it grossed around US$1.8 million (£1.5 million) after seven weeks in theaters.[34]

Director J. J. Abrams asked: "When you have a movie that's as entertaining, well-made, and well-received as Booksmart not doing the business it should have [the teen comedy underperforming at the box office despite critics' raves], it really makes you realize that the typical Darwinian fight to survive is completely lopsided now. Everyone's trying to figure out how we protect the smaller films that aren't four-quadrant mega-releases. Can they exist in the cinema?"[35]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 377 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. 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."[36] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[37] 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%.[30] In December 2018, Rotten Tomatoes named Booksmart the #1 comedy of the decade on the site, using an adjusted formula that weighed multiple factors, including a film's release year and number of reviews.[38]

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".[7] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "hilarious, blazingly paced teen comedy."[39] Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, calling it a "refreshingly original take on the raunchy coming-of-age comedy" and praising Feldstein and Dever's chemistry.[40] Alissa Wilkinson of Vox awarded the film a score of four out of five, writing that the "memorably relatable" Booksmart is also a "delightful reminder that growing up is about realizing nobody's a stereotype".[41]

Linda Holmes of NPR gave an especially favorable review, calling the film "a humane and heartfelt film without a mean bone in its figurative body".[42] Vulture's Emily Yoshida also favorably wrote that it "manages to be inclusive and progressive, without being precious about anything or sacrificing an ounce of humor".[43] A. O. Scott of The New York Times regarded the film as "sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid", and referring to Feldstein and Dever as "a classic comedy duo".[44] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal deemed Booksmart a "prodigy", stating that no film that was "funnier, smarter, quicker or more joyous has graced the big screen in a long time."[45]

Accolades[edit]

Booksmart was included on 68 critics' top-ten lists, and on two lists was ranked in first place.[46]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Austin Film Critics Association January 6, 2020 Best First Film Booksmart Won [47]
British Academy Film Awards February 2, 2020 Best Original Screenplay Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman Nominated [48]
BAFTA Rising Star Award Kaitlyn Dever Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association December 14, 2019 Milos Stehlik Breakthrough Filmmaker Award Olivia Wilde Nominated [49][50]
Critics' Choice Awards January 12, 2020 Best Comedy Booksmart Nominated [51]
Detroit Film Critics Society December 9, 2019 Breakthrough Kaitlyn Dever Nominated[a] [52][53]
Olivia Wilde Nominated
Dorian Awards January 8, 2020 LGBTQ Film of the Year Booksmart Nominated [54]
Dublin Film Critics Circle December 17, 2019 Best Film Booksmart 5th place [55]
Best Director Olivia Wilde 4th place
Best Screenplay Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman 2nd place
GLAAD Media Awards March 19, 2020 Outstanding Film – Wide Release Booksmart Won [56]
Golden Globe Awards January 5, 2020 Best Actress – Musical or Comedy Beanie Feldstein Nominated [57]
Gotham Independent Film Awards December 2, 2019 Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Olivia Wilde Nominated [58]
Audience Award Booksmart Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association Awards January 9, 2020 Best Picture Booksmart Nominated [59]
Best Original Screenplay Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman Nominated
Best Female Director Olivia Wilde Won
Best Performance by an Actor or Actress 23 and Under Kaitlyn Dever Won
Best First Feature Booksmart Nominated
Best Independent Feature Booksmart Nominated
Best Comedy/Musical Booksmart Won
Hollywood Film Awards November 3, 2019 Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award Olivia Wilde Won [60]
Independent Spirit Awards February 8, 2020 Best First Feature Booksmart Won [61]
IndieWire Critics Polls December 16, 2019 Best Picture Booksmart 18th place [62]
Best Actress Beanie Feldstein 21st place
Best First Feature Booksmart 2nd place
Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society July 1, 2019 Best Picture Booksmart Won [63]
Best Actress Beanie Feldstein Runner-up
Best Supporting Actress Billie Lourd Won
Best Female Director Olivia Wilde Won
Best Original Screenplay Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman Won
Best Indie Film Booksmart Won
Online Film Critics Awards January 6, 2020 Best Debut Feature Olivia Wilde Won [64]
Palm Springs International Film Festival November 27, 2018 Directors to Watch Olivia Wilde Won [65]
The ReFrame Stamp February 26, 2020 2019 Top 100-Grossing Narrative Feature Recipients Booksmart Won [66]
San Francisco International Film Festival April 24, 2019 Best Narrative Feature Booksmart Won [67]
St. Louis Film Critics Association December 15, 2019 Best Original Screenplay Booksmart Nominated [68]
Best Comedy Won
Women Film Critics Circle December 9, 2019 Best Movie about Women Booksmart Nominated [69]
Best Movie by a Woman Nominated
Best Woman Storyteller Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman Nominated
Best Equality of the Sexes Booksmart Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards February 1, 2020 Best Original Screenplay Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman Nominated [70]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Also for Them That Follow

References[edit]

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External links[edit]