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Booksmart Is the Coming of Age Movie I Always Needed


Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) in Booksmart.

Booksmart is the kind of movie that some audiences will laugh at and leave behind, and others will watch with joy and wish they had a movie like this when they were a teenager. I’m one of those people. I grew up being what may have been referred to as “a goody two shoes.”

I didn’t want to live with the fear of getting caught and getting into trouble. Even if I downloaded a song off Limewire, I was terrified someone was going to catch me and I was going to go to jail. Now, I look back on that fear and that relentless drive to get into college without having anything on my record and I think to myself, “Wow, what was I even doing?”

So, to see a movie like Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart, where diligent students Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) put aside their worries about their futures for one night, teenage me would have thrived. The intellectually driven BFFs realize they’ve missed out on partying and experimenting in high school and decide to cram it into one memorable night, with both dramatic and hilarious results.

I compared the trailer to Superbad by saying that it was the female version, because we’ve never really had something quite like this. Booksmart is the kind of fun, cheeky high school coming-of-age flick that always seemed to be made with boys in mind. Further, it’s inclusive in wonderfully progressive ways the Clueless and Superbad generations could not have imagined.

Not to be the woman screaming about being represented in film (but to be exactly that), when I was growing up we watched as the boys onscreen plotted their first “conquest” or went to a party they were never invited to before. Maybe there is a movie out there I missed out that gave a truly edgy spin on the teenage girl experience, but I can’t remember one that didn’t focus on well-meaning if clueless individuals or mean girls.

If I had a film like Booksmart when I was a teenager, I might have been inspired to be as experimentally bold as Amy and Molly. Luckily for current teenagers, these days Booksmart is not alone, with movies like Edge of Seventeen and Lady Bird showing the youthful female experience in a new light. Booksmart is a story starring women, directed by a woman, and written by four women; this is a winning formula that Hollywood should be quick to recognize.

Did I cry during this movie? Yes, because for one of the first times ever, my own teenage years were being seen. And I know that many, many people can relate to this, female or no. Half of my friends now could probably still relate to this movie.

Life is about choices, something my mother always told me and I never listened to, but Booksmart shows us that our choices don’t have to be the status quo but should, rather, be choices that are true to who we are. I love this movie with my whole heart, and you will too.

(image: Annapurna Pictures)

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Rachel (she/her) is an I, Tonya stan who used to have a poster of Frank Sinatra on her wall as a kid. She loves superheroes, weird musicals, wants Robert Downey Jr. to release a new album, and would sell her soul for Pedro Pascal as Kraven the Hunter. She is Leslie Knope and she's okay with that. Secretly Grogu's mom and Lizzie Olsen's best friend.