BOOKSMART. Unless you're one of those people who has the sun shining on them every day, high school can be tricky to navigate. Whether it's infuriating or merely tedious, it's quite a trial at the time. Having a best friend with whom to bond can definitely help someone through the highs and lows.
Central to the premise of Booksmart is the bond between best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), two high school seniors who, as the title makes clear, have made the grades in a big way and are off to bigger and better things. But the problem with such a bond is the tendency for sort of a two-person groupthink to take root and blossom into an inability to see all that's going on outside that friendship. On the last day of high school, Amy — behind the wheel of a beautifully boxy 1980s Volvo station wagon (totally on point) — picks up Molly and off they go for a day of saying goodbye to teachers and snarking about the woo-hoo classmates that they'll never have to see again. Molly, the class president who's seen as a know-it-all perfectionist who's concerned about the next year's student government budget (a matter that even her principal, ably played by SNL's Jason Sudekis, doesn't want to talk about) is headed to Yale in the fall. Amy, an equally sharp-tongued but more awkward girl, is bound for a summer in Botswana.
On a restroom visit Molly overhears a trio of fellow students talking smack about her, confronts them and finds that the popular hard-partiers have managed to keep an academic focus. One is headed to Stanford on a scholarship, another is also headed to Yale ("I'm great at handjobs and got a 1530 SAT") while the third is skipping higher ed altogether and headed straight to Google to write code.
The plot kicks into motion – Molly convinces Amy that they have to go attend the party of the year (at the home of Nick, the lackadaisical VP to Molly's apple-shining president), nixing their planned date for a Ken Burns marathon that night. Oh, and Amy, who has been openly out for two years, has a crush on Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), a bespectacled skater girl.
First-time director Olivia Wilde has a great grasp of comedy and the movie is loaded with the supporting cast talent to pull it off. But it's buoyed most by the chemistry between Dever and Feldstein. Their evening is a surreal nightmare of being trapped at the attended-by-no-one yacht party of a rich classmate, followed by a visit to a murder mystery party hosted by a pretentious drama club friend, Lyft rides, dying cell phones and desperately trying to ascertain where Nick's party is.
Now this is the point, dear reader, at which you may be thinking "wait a minute — this sounds a lot like the plot to Superbad." And you wouldn't be wrong at all. The Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg-penned hit movie of 2007 followed the story of two unpopular lads over one day and long night late in their senior year, following their efforts to try to have as much fun as their classmates, and to hook up with a pair of girls. Adding to the similarities, Feldstein is Superbad star Jonah Hill's real-life younger sister and there are a few crucial comic plot points in the movie's final third that invite comparison.
But put all that aside — in a lot of ways, Superbad seems like it was made 50 years ago and Booksmart is hilarious, fresh, real and full of inventive oddball touches from start to finish. The screenplay, mainly credited to comedian/actress Sarah Haskins and New Yorker contributor Susanna Fogel, is one of the smartest and cleverest ones so far this year. Dever has the less showy role but is understatedly great, while for Feldstein, this is hopefully a star-making movie. So great as the best friend in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, here Feldstein is no second banana but a comic talent brandishing some real depth and heart.
And when you get right down to it, is there a better time for a woke-ass, pointed, raunchy, pro-feminist, bitingly funny story of a freely lesbian high school senior and her blunt, bossy and brilliant bestie than right now, on the cusp of the summer of 2019? Dever and Feldstein have a loud, cards-on-the-table argument late in the movie that speaks volumes about their relationship, growing up and not knowing everything you think you might despite all your college acceptance letters. In one long shot, it plays out with a sort of lyricism and tells you everything you need to know about Amy and Molly. And it gives you faith that those two young ladies of Generation Z will survive the evening and maybe conquer the world. R. 102M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
— David Jervis
*Due to the holiday, updated listings for Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna were not available at press time. See showtimes at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards› Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
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MA. Octavia Spencer stars as a woman who lets the cool kids party at her house and then turns scary. R. 99M. BROADWAY.
THE RAFT. Danish documentary about a 1973 floating social experiment that was supposed to examine sex and violence but veered closer to mutiny. NR. 97M. MINIPLEX.
ROCKETMAN. Elton John biopic promising sex, drugs, glittering sunglasses and rock 'n' roll with the greatest hits soundtrack to match. Starring Taron Egerton. R. 121M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
SERENGETI RULES. Documentary reflecting on the work of a group of scientists who studied the dynamics of survival in nature in the 1960s. NR. 84M. MINIPLEX.
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986). Life moves pretty fast. PG13. 103M. BROADWAY.
ALADDIN. Live-action Disney remake with (hopefully) less racism and a hotter Jafar than the original. Starring blue Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Marwan Kenzari. PG. 128M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK MINOR.
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BRIGHTBURN. Sometimes you find a crash-landed alien baby and instead of growing up to be Superman he makes a hard turn to the dark side. Starring Elizabeth Banks and Jackson Dunn. R. 91M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
A DOG'S JOURNEY. Oh, so now reincarnated pets are a good thing? Starring Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid and Kathryn Prescott. PG. 108M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE HUSTLE. A weak, unfunny script and poor pacing in this gender-swapped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels wastes its leads (Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway) and only reinforces outdated gender norms it could be skewering. PG13. 94M. BROADWAY.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM. This installment outdoes itself with world-creation and giddily satisfying action sequences as Keanu Reeves outruns an international assemblage of assassins with Halle Berry and more dogs. Also starring Laurence Fishburne and Anjelica Houston. R. 130M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU. Ryan Reynolds voices the cuddly CGI creature, thus precluding a Deadpool crossover. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR. Romance about a young woman (Yara Shahidi) who's about to be deported with her family when she meets a charming stranger (Charles Melton) on the street in New York. PG13. 100M. BROADWAY.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill