It's pretty rare for a movie to live up to the hype these days, but Booksmart – a whip-smart, hilarious and modern teen comedy – makes the grade.
Beanie Feldstein (already getting a well-deserved starring role after playing the best friend in Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (another veteran of the incredible Short Term 12) star as Molly and Amy, two straight-A BFFs who use the last night of high school to prove to themselves and their classmates that they can cut loose and party with their peers. But like Superbad before it, getting there – and potentially hooking up with their crushes (Mason Gooding and Victoria Ruesga) – is easier said than done, as plenty of detours and side-quests delay their arrival.
What makes Booksmart so special is how effortlessly modern it feels. It's got a diverse cast and there's a lot more variety in each peer group than the rigid lines of high school comedies past. And even at its most ridiculous, the characters feel like actual people with real motivations. But every single one is hilarious in their own way, getting multiple chances to have the funniest moment in any given scene. It's a testament to the incomparable Allison Jones, a master at choosing actors you've seen before, but not necessarily used to this effect. And it's also a credit to Olivia Wilde, making her directorial debut. She already knows how to get the right emotions out of her actors and how to shoot the scene for maximum impact. Only this movie would have a full-on stop-motion fantasy sequence, in which the girls believe they've transformed into very unrealistic Barbie dolls.
The film also gives its few adult characters – namely, the principal (Jason Sudeikis) and beloved English teacher Ms. Fine (Jessica Williams) – authentic character beats. They're not shy about their low paychecks or loneliness. But the film has such a big heart. Even characters who are mocked for their outsize personalities are never meant to be pathetic. Like everyone else, they're just trying to find an identity and have someone understand them.
Though the year isn't even half over, I don't expect I'll see a comedy as warm, open and thoroughly hilarious as Booksmart. It's at the top of the class.