Booksmart is one of the best, most fun movies I have seen in years. It's also the result of some incredible girl power. Let me break it down:
- The original script was written by two women, Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (who are now producers and writers on Black-ish). It made it onto The Black List in 2009, which is an annual list of the best screenplays not yet produced. It's original log line was, "Two overachieving high school seniors realize the only thing they haven't accomplished is having boyfriends, and each resolves to find one by prom."
- In 2014, Susanna Fogel, director of The Spy Who Dumped Me, came on to give the script an edit.
- After that, Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures saw potential in the script and bought. She teamed up with Jessica Elbaum of Gloria Sanchez Productions, the female-focused arm of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's production company (which also produced Dead to Me on Netflix).
- Jessica Elbaum then recommends her friend, actress Olivia Wilde, to direct. Wilde had directed some music videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Magnetic Zeros, but never a feature film. She went in to pitch for the job, and got it. Booksmart would officially be her directorial debut.
- Since the last script edits were in 2014, Elbaum then connected Wilde to screenwriter Katie Silberman (Set It Up on Netflix) to give the screenplay one final round of polish. Silberman pitched a pivot to the script which would take the focus off of finding boyfriend before prom, "What if the two friends realized that they did high school all wrong? What if they realized that everyone they thought just partied and wasted their high-school years were going to Ivy League schools just like them?" That's the version that ultimately got the green light.
- With the script final, the film was then cast by Allison Jones (Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place). She selected Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever for the two lead roles.
Ok, now you are caught up!
Beanie Feldstein, who you may remember as the sidekick in Lady Bird, plays Molly. She is the class president, has been accepted to Yale, and plans to be the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Her best friend, Amy, is played by Kaitlyn Dever. Amy, the quieter of the two, is deferring her admission to Columbia to spend a year in Botswana volunteering.
Their friendship is the heartbeat of the film. One of the first scenes has Amy coming to pick Molly up for the last day of school, and they spend a good three minutes dancing outside the car before jumping in.
During that final day of senior year, Molly's head explodes when she learns three of her classmates (who she assumed were idiots) are also going on to Ivy League schools. Incensed, she declares to Amy that they have to party on their last night before graduation.
What follows is a quest to find the big party (mostly by watching Snapchat), and to spend time with their respective crushes. I don't want to give too much away, but it's a wild night attempting to find this rager, including two false starts at other parties, three different Lyft rides, and one epic outfit change.
I loved this movie. When the credits rolled I said to my two friends, "I can already tell I am going to spend hours and hours of my life re-watching this when it's available on Netflix or Amazon." One friend replied, "This was like Can't Hardly Wait and Superbad had a baby."
For me, there were two major things that stood out: the friendship between Molly and Amy, and the music selection. Their sisterhood is one that I think many women will recognize and relate to. They know each other so well, and truly are each other's biggest champions. Fun fact: Olivia Wilde asked Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever to live together during pre-production and filming, so they would have the best chance at having authentic BFF chemistry.
The music . . . wow. I don't even really know how to describe how each song is matched perfectly to the mood of the scene. Vanity Fair gives its take on where the music magic came from, "Olivia Wilde went to film school on the set of other director’s films. Reed Morano taught her how to pitch. Martin Scorsese gave her tricks to get her cast ready for production on day one. Spike Jonze helped her discover the art of curating emotion-inducing playlists."
You have to see this movie. It took nearly 10 years to make, but it was so worth the wait.
If you want to learn more about the Super Women behind Booksmart, these were the articles and podcast episodes I enjoyed the most:
- Inside Olivia Wilde’s Long Quest to Make Booksmart, the “Training Day of High School Movies” (Vanity Fair)
- How 'Booksmart' went from a 2009 script collecting dust to this year's must-see movie of the summer (Business Insider)
- 'Booksmart' Director Olivia Wilde: Teen Movies 'Made Me Excited To Be Young' (NPR)
- Booksmart and What's Making Us Happy (NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour)
- Taylor Swift, Ryan Reynolds and More Urge People to See Booksmart (PEOPLE)
If you saw the movie, please share your thoughts in the comments below!
*Images courtesy of Teen Vogue, The Washington Post and MPAA.
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