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Booksmart – Old Genre, New Tricks

4 July

In Palace Cinemas July 11 (Advance Screenings July 8!)

The Teen Film genre refers to a long and vibrant history of films: Mean Girls, Dazed and Confused, Clueless, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Heathers, Superbadthe list goes on. We are all familiar with the tropes – the catty cliques that pit young girls against each other, the outcasts who desperately try to reinvent themselves in order to climb the social ladder, the dark yet alluring stranger who broods in the corner of the cafeteria. These archetypes are the result of the same attempt to capture the shared adolescent experience – a time rife with hormones and awkwardness, but where we were also governed by an uncontrollable desire to experience life. With a new generation coming-of-age with their own stories to tell, we welcome Booksmart to the ring.

Molly (Beanie Feldstein) is an overachieving valedictorian who has spent her high-school years obsessively focused on her academic performance, along with her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). Sharing the same ambition and ‘work-hard’ mantra, over the past four years the pair have dedicated no time for the fun commonly experienced by girls their age and looked down on their classmates who appeared to be wasting their time going to house-parties and experimenting with drugs, sex and alcohol. However, their self-assurance is shattered when Molly learns that these classmates, with whom she has previously had little interaction, are set to attend the same Ivy League Colleges she has worked so hard to get into. They managed to take school seriously while simultaneously experiencing the fun of these crazy years – a skill Molly and Amy did not even attempt to master. All those nights spent turning down invitations did not guarantee their success, but were instead a huge wasted opportunity. Knowing there is one last house party the night before graduation, Molly drags Amy out to desperately make up for lost time.

Navigating a well-trodden genre, Booksmart presents a sincere portrait of millennial teenage awkwardness and injects a fresh perspective from two charismatic and non-stereotypical young female characters. Amy, a recently out lesbian, acknowledges her burgeoning libido but is not desperately ruled by it, as opposed to her male counterparts seen in earlier films of the same ilk. While Molly, a self-imposed superior, must learn to not judge others on a surface level – a flaw more commonly held by the teen film antagonist. Booksmart revels in individuality and inverts what it means to be ‘cool’. With a strong self-awareness, the film conveys a message of friendship and acceptance, while also delivering all the humour and entertainment the genre promises.

Booksmart is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, however, the talent she demonstrates in this film is that of a veteran filmmaker. The narrative is seamlessly punctuated with both heartfelt moments of honestly and scenes of outrageous comedy (a clear highlight being the drug-fueled hallucination where the girls see themselves as empowered Barbie Dolls – a true must see!). With vibrant energy, the film successfully creates the excitement of the final days of high school and offers viewers a unique take on a common theme. Booksmart is an example of the progression of the teen film elevated by fresh perspectives of a new generation.

This Blog Post was written by Blake Gamble, a duty-manager at Palace Norton Street and lover of all things film!

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