Youth is not wasted on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). Or maybe it is; while they’ve been dutifully planning for a future of Ivy League prestige and community-building in Botswana, their classmates have been partying like honey badgers on a four-year bender — and still getting into top colleges, too. So on the eve of their high school graduation, the two best friends decide to pack in every formative adventure that passed them by in one long, wild night.
Olivia Wilde’s directing debut could easily be filed under the logline “Lady Superbad”; like that 2007 coming-of-age breakout (which incidentally costarred Feldstein’s brother, Jonah Hill), it’s a shambolic comedy about two lovable teenage weirdos desperate to taste the rainbow before the sun rises, and hopefully unload their virginity along the way.
But Booksmart is its own distinctly female (and feminist) creation: a sweetly ramshackle tale of friendship and self-discovery, with a side of light pharmaceuticals. If the storyline doesn’t so much unfold as burst out in glittery puffs — and if music cues seem to make up about 40 percent of the plot—it’s still an endearing kind of chaos.
The cameos come fast and loose: Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jessica Williams, Wilde’s real-life partner Jason Sudeikis, a fantastically unhinged Billie Lourd. And Feldstein, so good on the periphery of films like Lady Bird, feels exactly right as the giddy, smack-talking maypole at the center of a sprawling cast. “Nobody knows that we are fun,” her Molly laments early on; the best part is that by then, she’s already wrong. B+