Superbad Gals


28 May 2019| Comments Off on Booksmart     by Sean Chavel


It started with Howard Hawks’ 1940 cream of the crop newspaper comedy “His Girl Friday,” or perhaps even earlier with Ernst Lubistch’s 1932 grifter comedy “Trouble in Paradise,” the motor mouth, rapid-fire dialogue exchanges where boy and girl shoot wit back and forth with each other with such natural aplomb that it’s high art. Eighty years later, we now get motor mouth smart alecks in high school comedies like “Superbad” or now Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart. The difference is the laced expletives and up to date schoolyard vernacular, but also different is the relentless hipsterism and ironic affectations.

The heroines are high school overachiever and feminists Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). But this is a comedy that detours with a lot of stops of Molly and Amy encountering eccentric others. For awhile, you can sense the giddiness of Wilde throwing new supporting characters at you every other minute, without warning. But the each time, the pattern is, garish close-up of the new character and a hipster rap song that hurls attitude at you, and it seems like every character has BIG ATTITUDE. There really are no bookworms here.

The class is graduating the next day, and Molly and Amy want to go to a big party, like they have been avoiding for four years, suddenly fit in, maybe make out with somebody, maybe try drugs, maybe just look… social for once. That’s a little late in the game, but here they are off to attend jock and class VP Nate’s party, only they end up, unwittingly, at several other parties before they ever get to Nate’s. Lots of hijinks, if you like hijinks (you might as well like hijinks that take place on lots of detours, you have no choice). It’s only at Nate’s party though that the film abandons that kind of hipsterism for two minutes so it can occasionally be sincere and insightful. We arrive at a lesbian sex scene here for one of the girls that is honestly awkward, fumbling about in experimentation that’s not done for laughs but for pathos, and I liked the sincerity there.

For many people, “Booksmart” will play as a comedy. For me, it’s a horror film. I laughed at some of the spitfire vulgarity, but I’m tired of high school characters putting on a mask to be this wild and do-whatever-pleases persona of today’s youth, that kind of off-the-cuff vulgarity is actually horrifying to me. I’m not the right demographic for this movie, I know that. And maybe it is because I know life gets better after high school when kids stop being kids so eager to be in your face to impress and just stop to talk about interesting things. As you can probably tell, I’m more of a Richard Linklater “Boyhood” person.

But Wilde seems to have seen her classic screwball comedies and she is game at pacing her own movie like one. She’s real good at that, maybe exceedingly good at that. I do hope her next movie is a screwball comedy about twenty-something girls in the adult workforce. “Booksmart” is not a great comedy to me, but don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets seeing it.

105 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “American Pie” (1999); “Superbad” (2007); “Project X” (2012); “The To Do List” (2013).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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