Booksmart (2019)

I was kind of looking forward to this, I loved Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird and was hoping to see more of what she can do. She’s starred alongside Bette Midler on Broadway so she’s obviously very talented, but I didn’t really feel her in this. Her performance seemed a bit too over the top, a bit too Will Ferrell. That kind of overblown over-dramatic comedy performance is loved by some people, but it never really works for me, just a personal opinion. Kaitlyn Deaver, on the other hand, is great in this. I’m not that familiar with her work which is weird as she’s been in things I’ve seen before: but those things have been Detroit and Men, Women And Children, two films which are definitely ensemble pieces (in the case of MW&C, to its detriment), so this is the first time I’ve really seen her take centre stage, and she nails it. Giving enough vulnerability and frustration to her performance that you can’t help but root for her in her struggles, and she’s involved in the main heart-breaking moments of the movie.

A lot of the media focus has been on this film being Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut. So how does she do? Well firstly, I feel the need to point out that writers are severely underpraised in terms of media, and that’s something that needs to change immediately. We need to see “from the writer of…..” more, but that’s an argument for another day. Does Wilde work as a director? Kind of. There are some complicated scenes which she handles beautifully, and there’s one scene near the end where the main characters are arguing and you see camera-phones gradually light up behind them, incredibly subtle and brilliant. Sadly this then leads to the dialogue being drowned out by music, which is a weird choice, as if you do that, and it’s not a montage, it kind of feels like the director wasn’t confident enough in the dialogue being said and wasn’t sure it would do what was needed. The argument is the best scene in terms of how it develops these characters, and I personally feel we kind of need to hear what’s being said to have the full impact. There are other scenes which cut weirdly and don’t really flow together well. But mostly she does it well, I mean, there is one scene where she focuses way too long on something and makes it obvious what’s going to happen, but I can see why that was done. There are a lot of scenes here which look superb, the party scenes, in particular, have a lot of background detail which you could easily miss if you’re not paying attention. I feel she’s about 1 film away from truly being great, but it’s definitely one of the strongest first-time comedies I’ve seen in a while.

This does manage to be the only film which has characters which are both underused and overused. Okay, let me rephrase that, they’re misused. There are some characters introduced at the beginning who only come back later on because they were introduced earlier on, I would have liked to have seen more of them if the writing had a more natural reason to bring them back. As it is it feels like when you watch a holiday episode of a TV show and it features the exact same characters and it just feels a bit weird as why would they all go at the same time when half the characters hate each other? So should you see this? I’m not sure, I wouldn’t pay full price at the cinema to see it, but if it’s on netflix or you get a chance to watch it in a group of people whilst drinking, do it, and you’ll enjoy it.

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