Booksmart

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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As New York Magazine sees it, “Thirty-four years after ‘The Breakfast Club,’ we still have athletes and brains, princesses and criminals, mean girls, drama dorks, freaks and geeks … Recently, however, a new archetype of late-2010s teendom has begun to take shape – the socially conscious busybody.”

Hmm, where do we find this new image of a teenager? In Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart,” of course.

At 35, the former Olivia Jane Cockburn is far from her teen years, but she apparently has a memory to rival the late John Hughes (“The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink”). She has taken a screenplay from the writing team of Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman and spun it into high school gold.

You will remember Olivia Wilde as an actress in such flicks as “Tron: Legacy,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” And she co-starred in “1984” on Broadway. “Booksmart” is her first time directing a film.

She has a knack.

In “Booksmart,” the plot is simple: 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?

Here you’ll meet Amy and Molly, two over-achieving Los Angeles high school girls who discover that their Type A bookworm hard work was for naught … that all their fun-loving, partying, sexually active classmates also got into good schools. So they decide to reverse course and have a blow-out on the last day of school by crashing Nick‘s party, the biggest pre-graduation debauchery in town.

But going bad is easier said than done. Due to the mistaken directions of two Lyft drivers and a pizza delivery guy, they wind up at Jared’s yacht party, George’s murder mystery party, and get abandoned on the road. Finally, a friendly teacher gives them a ride to Nick’s bash.

There, Amy finds the girl she has a crush on making out with Nick. Molly is none too happy either, in that she had her eye on Nick for herself.

Predictably, the police come to shut down Nick’s party, but Amy saves the day … er, make that night.

So where do Amy and Molly stand in the end? After all, this movie is really about their friendship, not about Nick or Ryan or George or Gigi or Pat the Pizza Guy or Annabelle Triple A.

Wanna find out? “Booksmart” is still making its mark this week on screens at Tropic Cinema.

Beanie Feldstein (the best friend in “Lady Bird”) and Kaitlyn Dever (a bit part in “The Front Runner”) are outstanding in their roles as misguided Molly and shy feminist Amy. Here are two very uncool girls navigating a world of much cooler peers.

We meet Jared, the billionaire’s son (Skyler Gisondo); self-serious George (Noah Gavin); eccentric Gigi (Billie Lourd); hot mean girl Hope (Diana Silvers); desirable Ryan (Victoria Ruesga); and Nick himself (Mason Gooding) – a teenage Greek chorus backing up our good-girls-trying-to-go-bad, Molly and Amy.

A few grown-ups add to the scenery: Jason Sudeikis as the porn-loving principal, Jessica Williams as the kindly teacher who gives them a lift, along with such familiar faces as Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Mike O’Brien.

As Cyndi Lauper once told us, girls just want to have fun. In “Booksmart,” that remains true. But we see just how hard that is to do.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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