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Be Smart

It still shocks me when people tell me they no longer go to the movies, but even I was surprised that I went to see a movie twice in one week. Yes, I am no stranger to a repeat trip to the theatre, but Booksmart hit me hard. I very rarely see a new release that rockets to the top of my list of all time favorites. In fact, I don't think it's happened since I saw Whip It 10 years ago.

If you haven't yet heard about Booksmart, it's an original, funny, empathetic take on an old classic. Two best friends want to go to a party after four years of a solely academic high school career. What it does differently from movies like Superbad (which I also love, by the way) should and will change the genre forever.

The two leads (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) not only land every joke and win you over immediately, but they also communicate the weird and wonderful world of female friendship through their performances in a way I've rarely seen. They don't compete, they support. They listen. They know each other's families as if they were their own. They absolutely fight, but they also fight to protect and defend one another. They are each other's chosen family. As someone lucky enough to have friends like this in my life, I can tell you it will warm your heart and make you immediately want to call your best friend (if you're not already with them at the movies).

It also tackles the awkward stage between coming out and doing something about it (Feldstein talks about it here) and first crushes and hookups with a tenderness that will make you remember instead of cringe. Yes, it's confusing and it sucks, but you literally see these women laugh their way through it, cheer each other on, and carry each other through heartbreak and confusion.

The rest of the cast is superb, including showstopping, scene-stealing comedy from Jessica Williams (filling the hole in my heart since 2 Dope Queens ended) and Billie Lourd (who, among other things, is Carrie Fisher's daughter, out here proving my theory that queens birth queens). The whole senior class here has something I've only ever experienced in real life. We may not all run in the same circles, but we've been through it together, and we're still going to support each other (shout out to the Class of 2013). This cast captures the generation after mine with such insight and love.

Add in a killer soundtrack and score and gorgeous cinematography and sound design and you have a movie both reminiscent of my favorite coming of age movies from John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, and Richard Linklater and something completely original. The movie captures the essence of high school, showing two incredibly close friends learning about themselves and how to survive judgment and being wrong, even when they think they know better.

I'm breaking a nearly year and a half hiatus to talk about this movie for a reason. If you've read my stuff before, you know I don't like to write reviews, and this isn't one. I only want to write about what makes me think and what makes me excited to see and create art, and this is absolutely that. But, I'm not just writing about it for that reason. The title of this post isn't just a play on the title of the movie. This film is masterfully and lovingly directed by Olivia Wilde. There's something special about her signature on this film (no doubt, in part, because she's been in front of the camera), and I want to see more.

Booksmart was written, directed, and stars women from whom we should see more. Movies are art, but it's also a business, and that means box office numbers matter. I don't just want you to see this movie, I need you to see it this weekend. We deserve more films like this, more films from women, more films that tell stories about often seem secondary. Big budget movies like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel with women at the helm count here, too, but they also have studios and pop culture history behind them that almost guarantees success. This is different. Do yourself a favor and go see this Booksmart. I dare you to finish your movie snacks. I sure didn't. Twice.


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