There's no better way to say it: Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, is entirely winning and winsome, proving there's still some new luster to be had from an old graduation buddy comedy film. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have been friends forever and are about to graduate from high school. They've buckled down and checked all the boxes to get into the best schools. But on the eve of graduation, Molly finds that maybe they didn't actually check all the right boxes. Their classmates are headed to the same prestigious futures, proving that they worked hard just as much as they played hard. In a last-ditch effort to have it all, the two embark on an all-night quest to participate in the greatest party of all time.
Dever and Feldstein are gems, never flagging in their portrayal as supportive friends. Nothing would make me happier than to see the two of them collaborate again in other roles like another Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly pair or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Booksmart deftly navigates the usual "search of an epic party" trope, turning it instead into a friendship odyssey, complete with a mysterious oracle-like figure (a hilarious Billie Lourd) that keeps popping up to guide their journey, a lotus-eating drug scene, and scenes of such surpassing strangeness they only make sense in the context of a teen film.
Yet despite these exotic scenes, the story and emotions are familiar. It's a tumultuous time of our lives where we keenly feel emotions even when we rollercoaster from our highs to our lows in minutes. It's also all-consuming, disorienting, and egocentric. Wilde captures all of this perfectly, from the slo-mo scenes of Molly's disbelief in the school hallways, to the poignant beauty of the light-filled pool scenes that catches those effervescent moments we'll never capture again if we're not there to seize them, to the steadicam daze that follows when Amy leaves that pool. It's a confident handling of material that belies the fact that this is Wilde's debut and the uncertainty of the subject matter.
Amy and Molly are each other's "person". They are that person in your youth who knows you better than your parents do, maybe better than you yourself do. But through the course of their night, they find out more about each other and their classmates: always proving that there is more to a person than meets the eye. One person doesn't have to belong to simply one Hogwarts House; teenagers are more complex than that, despite what your average highschool flick will tell you. Appropriately, Booksmart proves that the average highschool flick doesn't have to be average at all. I'm thankful that smart, relevant movies are being made that belie mediocrity or the idea that we have to settle for anything less. Booksmart is funny, affirming, and a delight on all fronts -- Wilde has knocked it out of the park and inaugurated a promising directing career.