"The Flagship Film Podcast"

“The flagship film podcast” featuring in-depth reviews, top 5 lists and interviews.

"Booksmart" Excerpt

Josh: "Booksmart," is a bit of an odd duck, Adam, in that it's at once incredibly cliched and surprisingly fresh. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever star as Molly and Amy, high-achieving seniors and best friends who wonder if they should have done less studying and had more fun in school. And so, the night before graduation, they decide to hit the biggest party of the year. The expected bits are here – the different high school cliques, the exasperated school administrator, here played by Jason Sudeikis, that party... We've seen variations on much of this before, from "Superbad," starring Feldstein's older brother, Jonah Hill, to "American Pie," to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Insert your own formative high school movie here. But then, you have the fact that the two main characters are girls. Four women wrote the screenplay. The director is a woman, actress Olivia Wilde making her feature debut. And the many queer characters are given more of a role in the narrative than usual, including Amy, played by Dever. So Adam, what did you make of this movie-whiplash – this conglomeration of the old and the new? Did you mind the clichés? Did you appreciate the freshness overall? Would you say "Booksmart," stands out in an incredibly crowded and familiar genre? 

Adam: Well, before you answer that, you may have to define exactly what the genre is. Is it teen comedy? Is it high school comedy? Are those the same, or is there a distinction there? Is this a teen high school sex comedy? There's lots of variations on it. We could maybe even get a little more specific. This is a geeks-trying-to-get-laid movie. 

Josh: Yeah, it hits all those subgenres I would say. 

Adam: Yeah it does. And undoubtedly driving the action here, to my last point, is the pursuit of action. It's Amy's crush that is gonna be a key part of this story, and then we learn a little bit more about Molly in one of her crushes later in the film. It's funny because I was thinking about this genre – or this mash up of genres – and there's no doubt if you were just going to start listing them, it is tipped in the favor of men or teenage boys. At the same time, maybe the definitive one is "Fast Times at Richmond High," which is predominantly a female perspective. "Clueless," recently "The Edge of Seventeen," "Lady Bird," I think all of those would probably qualify. And this is being billed, rightfully so, you mentioned, as the female "Superbad." I think for me it maybe stands out the most in the context of all of these Apatow-produced or directed comedies, which really have dominated comedy over the past decade or so – "40 Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," yes, "Superbad," "Anchorman," "Stepbrothers..." But even there there's a few notable exceptions, like "Trainwreck," and "Bridesmaids." In terms of the stereotypes themselves – you touched on some of them – I think it's a little bit inevitable with a high school set movie. We have the try-hards here as two lead characters. You get the drama folks, you get the cool kids... I was trying to remember are there really any jocks in the film. 

Josh: I think the implication is that Nick is a jock? You know, the dreamboat vice president who doesn't pull his weight in student council? 

Adam: Right. 

Josh: I think that's the case. 

Adam: I think that's fair. There are the promiscuous girls, the rich kids, there's the lame principal, even though he's actually probably not that lame, and there's also the teacher who parties with the kids. I think about the great moment, early in "Say Anything," when the guidance counselor – I think it is – shows up to the party, and Lloyd's the key master and she drops her keys in and goes into the party. But I think I'm with you, because you said it felt fresh, and I never had the sense watching this movie that I was watching recycled characters. I think it's different in high school now. It's stratified. It's always going to be stratified, but it's also more fluid. People representing multiple cliques. They flow between them. A lot of the standard labels that probably applied back in our day – to sound like the old guys who want the kids off our lawn – as they apply to gender, sexual orientation, even politics, don't really apply anymore. The world is changed, high school's changed, and high school movies have changed too. I think we see that here. I think we see that teen lives in general are so much bigger than just my school, my town, my group of friends. That's one of the things that actually worked in "Lady Bird's" favor. If you remember, it was a period piece right, set back in the early '90s, so you really understood how trapped Lady Bird could feel and how much she would longed to go somewhere like New York, where she perceives culture to be happening again. I think "Booksmart," really reflects a 2018-2019 perspective, which is great. As much as I enjoyed that aspect of the film and appreciated Feldstein and Dever as a pair, I didn't fully get on board with this film until the last third, for a few reasons that we can definitely get into.

But since we're talking about cliches, here's one small one that never worked for me in this film. It was the trope I'll call the, "Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta," entrance. I thought it was hilarious in "Knocked Up," 13 to 14 years ago, but now it's so tired. Even Wes Anderson has been doing it long before that – and of course, he's doing it with classic rock instead of hip-hop. But we get that hip-hop music, the slow motion, as these nerds walk into a library, or wherever it might be–

Josh: It's the library scene [Laughs

Adam:  You know, flashing signs and acting a lot cooler than they really are. Now there's one time it really works, and it's in the opening scene, because Olivia Wilde as the director does something really clever. As they're dancing and the music's playing, she then cuts to a wide shot, and on the cut, stops the music, just to showcase how uncool they really are. There are a lot of nice touches like that in this film. 


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