'Booksmart' Review: Olivia Wilde's Directorial Debut Is A Hilarious, Female-Driven Coming-Of-Age Comedy [SXSW]

Having an internal crisis, high schooler Molly turns to to her classmate and exclaims "You guys don't care about school!" To which she snidely responds "We just don't only care about school."What happens when your whole worldview shifts and you discover the choices you made for yourself were not the only viable options? For two teen girls who are quickly approaching graduation, they discover that the fun of their teenage years has almost slipped out of their hands – and they have one night to fix that. The Olivia Wilde-directed Booksmart follows these girls as they decide to finally let loose the night before graduation. Their adventure leads audiences through a hilarious, sharp, endearing, and ultimately loving film that stands out from other, seemingly similar comedies.Booksmart focuses on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), two extremely studious seniors on the cusp of their graduation. After coming to the realization that their more lackadaisical classmates have also gotten into great schools, the illusion of their sheltered experience shatters. They decide to go to the most popular jock's party on the evening before graduation to finally experience the fun they're missing out on. As you'd imagine, everything does not go according to plan.What tethers this film is the relationship between Molly and Amy – if it doesn't work, the film doesn't work. Luckily, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein the goods in spades. The chemistry between the two young women is immediately believable and charming, but it's Feldstein's performance as the type-A, demanding valedictorian that is a standout. She's not unfamiliar with the coming-of-age genre (you may remember her great supporting role in Lady Bird), but this role is more befitting for Feldstein's slightly manic and awkward comedic timing. Make no mistake – she is star and it's such a pleasure to watch her command the space.Aiding the actors is a hilarious script and skilled direction from Wilde. The script is tight and the raunchiness lands, while the actions and voices of these teens track and never feel forced. This leaves opportunity for Wilde to really play – and she doesn't hesitate. Although she's a first-time feature director, Wilde doesn't play it safe, showcasing an already impressive eye that's genuinely fresh for a new filmmaker. She especially excels during certain fantastical elements of the film – a drug-tripping stop-motion scene, for example. Right out of the gate, Wilde knows what she is doing.As the film's world premiere at SXSW ended, the comparisons to Superbad immediately started flooding in. While the friendship and outlandishness of that Greg Mottola-directed film can spark a desire to discuss the similarities, Booksmart actually pushes the raunchy teen comedy genre further. In a genre that is generally dominated by similar white nerdy male protagonists, Booksmart is an experience that's more queer, more diverse and more female-centered than anything remotely comparable. It fits in nicely alongside Lady Bird and Eighth Grade, movies that reveal the future of the coming-of-age film. There's still work to be done – these films all have white female leads and the world needs one of these starring characters of color – but we're shifting the tides slowly. And additions like Booksmart are crashing against those tides in an unapologetic way./Film Rating: 9 out of 10