Many will compare Olivia Wilde’s teenage comedy Booksmart to Superbad. Both tell the story of two friends who are about to graduate high school that want to end their senior year with an awesome night of partying — but that’s where the comparisons end. In Wilde’s feature directorial debut, we follow two young women (as opposed to Superbad‘s male-centric story) and we are given a totally different kind of high school romp that received quite an ovation at SXSW, making it another buzzworthy film out of the Austin-based fest.
The film appropriately premiered on Wilde’s birthday and before the screening a cake was brought out and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” (the celebration continued at the afterparty with a performance from Santigold). After the screening, Wilde praised SXSW for letting her premiere her film there. Booksmart showcases what Wilde is capable of as a director and gives her a solid foundation that will make audiences crave more of her storytelling. For Wilde, the film was personal for her and reflected her own taste in films of the high school-era ilk.
“I had a dream of making a film that I loved and still love,” she said. “For me, in my teenage years, it was the generational anthems that kept me going.” She cited films like The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless as inspiration and added: “I thought we need one of those for this generation. I want to add to that conversation.”
The Annapurna comedy has raunch, inventive insults and a vocabulary specific to this heightened reality where stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein shine brightly with comedic chops that need to be recognized. “I’m so nervous,” Dever said on stage during the Q&A at the premiere. Feldstein echoed that sentiment and gushed about working with Wilde and her supertalented co-star who comes from the Short Term 12 school of acting that includes graduates that went on to lauded acting careers including Brie Larson, Rami Malek and Lakeith Stanfield. The film also stars Jessica Williams, Billie Lourd, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte.
With two female leads, a female director, a majority female editing team and a female screenwriting team that included Katie Silberman, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Susanna Fogel, Booksmart furthers the progress of inclusion of women in front of and behind the camera. Wilde and company are definitely doing their part for the 4% Challenge.