Booksmart: Five Reasons You'll Love It
Olivia Wilde's CV as an actress is an impressive one by anyone's standards, with key roles in TV hits such as House, Portlandia and Vinyl, as well as films including Tron: Legacy and Rush, not to mention her work as a voice actor for animated shows like Robot Chicken and BoJack Horseman.
This week, however, sees Wilde add another string to her bow, making her debut in the director's chair with a new coming-of-age comedy-drama that has been earning rave reviews from critics, despite a somewhat low-key cinematic release.
Booksmart arrives in UK cinemas this week and sees Wilde taking charge of a film stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as two teenage girls on the eve of graduating high school, safe in the knowledge that their dogged focus on schoolwork, while making them relatively unpopular at school, has at least secured the advantage of a place in one of the country's most prestigious schools.
However, when it emerges that many of their fellow students have done a rather better job of balancing academic achievement with a healthy social life, the girls decide to have one last blowout before leaving for college.
Featuring a cast that also includes Lisa Kudrow and Jason Sudeikis, Booksmart arrives on DVD on Monday (September 30th) and we rounded up five reasons why we think you'll love Olivia Wilde's debut feature...
It's an impressive directorial debut from Wilde
Olivia Wilde has enjoyed some high-profile backing for her debut feature from the likes of Will Ferrell and Anchorman director Adam McKay, both of whom have helped bankroll the film's modest budget, but celebrity friends and industry connections only get you so far and, at the end of the day, any first-time filmmaker still has to deliver the goods. But credit where it's due; Olivia Wilde makes an impressive pivot from actress to director with her debut feature, delivering both style and substance in a coming-of-age comedy-drama with bags of heart and plenty of wit.
It flips the script on some familiar coming-of-age movie tropes
Booksmart makes some wry adjustments to the familiar last-year-of-high-school storyline, cleverly swerving some of the usual tropes and stereotypes for something more nuanced and original. A case in point is Molly's lightning bolt epiphany that sets up the film's big adventure. Having focussed all her energy in schoolwork while taking false comfort in the idea that the 'cool kids' at school will be flipping burgers for the rest of their days, her realisation that even the school's biggest dropouts are landing lucrative jobs at Google and places in Ivy League schools forces her to drastically alter her outlook on life.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein make an impressive double act
The film's pair of young stars are both experiencing careers on an upward trajectory as it is, with Dever already a series regular in Last Man Standing and Feldstein starring in the TV adaptation of vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, but their roles in Booksmart will have done their career prospects no harm whatsoever. As a pair they have real on-screen chemistry and carry the film's storyline with ease, making it a breeze to watch.
It takes a few unexpected left turns
Wilde has added some imaginative twists to the story, with some unexpected stylistic flourishes such as a bizarre scene in which the girls are given an Ayahuasca-type substance, ushering in a sequence in which they hallucinate and imagine themselves as stop-motion dolls – something you certainly don't see in every coming-of-age story.
It's not afraid to be gross
It's only mildly spoiler-y to say that Booksmart features a sex scene interrupted by vomiting, but while nothing new in itself, it is somehow refreshing to see that kind of scene play out with gay characters in a female-led comedy. In another universe, some killjoy might have cut all the R-rated elements to appeal to some imagined target audience, but then Booksmart wouldn't be half as much fun as it is.