A few days ago I went to see "Booksmart," the recently released film directed by Olivia Wilde. I was excited to see this movie for a number of reasons: it was rated 97% by Rotten Tomatoes, it's a movie about two high school girls and it's directed by a woman. Some have hailed it the "female Superbad" and while both movies do center around high school students and a night of partying, it feels like we are too quick to draw comparisons between newer films about women and classic films about men.
Just because it's the same genre doesn't make films like "Booksmart" (the "Superbad" 2.0) or "Bridesmaids" (the female "Hangover,") and to compare the films honestly reduces the significance and importance of a film like "Booksmart," which pictures two female best friends openly discussing sex, sexuality and even masturbation, topics that are often limited to the male world of comedy.
"Booksmart" follows overachievers Molly and Amy the night before graduation. The two girls have worked hard their entire high school career, and their efforts have been rewarded with promising futures. Molly is attending Yale in the fall and Amy is spending her summer volunteering in Botswana. Everything appears to be unfolding the way they expected — until Molly realizes that the classmates that have spent their years partying and that they have spent their years judging have also gotten into great schools.
Molly's world seems to quickly collapse, and she immediately decides that she and Amy need to make up four years worth of missed partying the night before graduation. Wilde's film shows their hilarious and desperate attempts to find the party of Nick, who is portrayed as an attractive "jock" character. Molly wants a chance to let go of her judgments and talk to the guy she's always had a crush on, but who she's deemed not smart enough in the past, and she simultaneously encourages Amy, sometimes aggressively, to pursue the skater girl named Ryan who Amy has always had a crush on.
Their last night of being high schoolers is full of laughs, struggles, extremely strange characters, drugs, alcohol, and sudden realizations about themselves and the people they've gone to school with for four years. While their classmates definitely see a different side of the school obsessed girls, Molly and Amy also begin to realize that the quick conclusions they've drawn about their peers might not be the most accurate.
The film is a high school comedy, yes, but it is not a female "Superbad." Some might agree with this because they see "Booksmart" as an agenda to push female and LGBTQ+ representation onto an audience accustomed to male comedy, and as a poor representation of films like Superbad, and honestly, I believe a lot of that attitude stems from a conditioned viewpoint of women as generally unfunny. Many aren't used to seeing women and girls joke around and engage in the same behavior that is typically labeled as male humor, and seeing it in films like "Booksmart" turns them off.
People connect with films they see themselves in, and for a long time, marginalized communities have been forced to try and connect with entertainment that doesn't represent them. "Booksmart" forces straight men to do exactly that, connect with something that doesn't depict them, and I think many straight men just haven't learned how to do that. I loved "Booksmart" because it gave the spotlight to two girls, and to the LGBTQ+ community, but I also loved it because it was truly a great film.