Booksmart Review

I missed Booksmart when it released in early 2019, and I shamefully have waited until now when it appeared on Amazon Prime to watch it. I’d heard nothing but positive things about this coming of age story so seeing it pop up on the streaming service was a nice surprise just before the Academy Awards this weekend.

Staring a cast of relative unknowns, and being director Olivia Wilde’s first feature length project, Booksmart has no right to be as genuinely brilliant as it is. Coming on the heels of me watching the second season of Sex Education, review of that here, Booksmart feels like it’s set in a very similar world. The 80’s fashion is toned down, but everything still feels a little stylised, everyone’s outfits are a little bit cooler than in the real world.

Amy and Molly are the two girls we follow through the film, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, and they have really believable “best friend” chemistry. You immediately believe they have been friends for years and have the relationship that kind of time builds between people. They have been the bookworms, studying and forgoing the partying their peers are indulging in that we all associated with our college (High School) years. It struck a note with me because it reminded me of my college years, going around to a mate’s house and drinking alcopops and pretending to enjoy beer.

I also once woke up in the middle of the night feeling very unwell, so I staggered out of the room to find a toilet, only to discover a drum kit where I thought the toilet should be. In my head I then returned to bed and slept it off. In reality, as my friend discovered the next day, I had decided to return to the room, move aside the dressing gown hung on the door, and proceeded to throw up all over the door. I then replaced the dressing gown and went back to bed.

Allegedly, it’s never been proven.

Anyway, back to the film! Booksmart took me back to those days of being carefree and having no responsibilities. The characters of course don’t realise that, to them the graduation they’re about to have and the crush they have on their classmate are as big an issue as anything life will ever throw at them. When our lead characters decide that they’re going to let their hair down for a night and party for the first time, I found myself hopeful that they would have a good time.

Ridiculous situation’s come thick and fast for the girls, and the laughs follow each one of them. I found myself chuckling a lot throughout Booksmart, and a few times I was howling with laughter, quite a rarity nowadays in films. Sometimes they’re a little juvenile, but that’s my kind of silliness, and I think there is a scene somewhere in there that will make most people laugh at some point in the film.

Much like Sex Education, it isn’t all about the laughs. Booksmart explores the challenges of growing up in your teens with all the anxiety and uncomfortable conversations about sex and sexuality. The awkwardness of the romance is painfully real, and without really being able to judge, I think it does a great job with LGBTQ+ representation without drawing any overt attention to it. Early on there is a conversation about Amy’s crush, and it’s a girl, and that’s just how it is. Her sexuality isn’t a plot point, she has feelings for someone are, and that’s the important part of it, not their gender.

Booksmart is a… smart film about coming of age, and it approaches it from a different angle to most films I have seen in this genre. Combining this with Sex Education, this new wave of media about growing up that is directly addressing the most uncomfortable parts of that part of life is really refreshing. I loved this film, and I can’t see why most people wouldn’t.

Good: Funny, Heart-warming, relatable, great performances, surprisingly well shot movie and a great soundtrack.

Bad: A bit of a slow start had me checking my watch and staring at Instagram, but that’s all that stopped this being a ten for me.

9/10 – Near perfect coming of age film.

Bombshell Review

Bombshell caught me by surprise late last year when I stumbled across the trailer and saw it had some of the most talented actresses all bundled together to tell an important, powerful story. It then fell off my radar until it finally released, and now I have finally been able to see whether it could live up to the expectations such a talent packed cast demand. 

Well first off, that cast all turn up and deliver excellent performances all-round the board. Everyone follows the lead of Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles and that level of performance is what really drives this film and makes it so compelling. Charlize Theron in particular catches the eye, and the Oscar nomination she has received for this role is well earned.

Margot Robbie is less central in the film, but she has some of the most powerful scenes and that’s why she is in the running for the supporting actress role, once again earning it. I did feel that those two were just a level above Nicole Kidman, who plays a very important role in the film but never threatens to steal a scene from anyone.

John Lithgow plays Roger Ailes, the man in charge of Fox and the man who is pitting these women against each other in their competitive field. He channels the ability he’s displayed in several roles over the years to be incredibly unsettling. He shares scenes with all the leads and although Margot Robbie’s character is a blend of several real women, the idea that this is based on true events made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

The story, if you don’t know it already, is essentially a dramatic telling of the events that led to Roger Ailes being removed from his role at Fox due to him sexually harassing numerous women over years in power at the news platform. The movie does a fantastic job of bringing you through the events, and the voice over from the three leads provides extra exposition when needed to give you more information as we go through the events.

There are a couple scenes in this that really feel powerful, and the film starts to go deeper into the characters and their emotions and the struggles they had to deal with. Margot Robbie bears the brunt of these scenes, with one showing how much the events have hurt her and another asking cutting questions to other women asking why they didn’t come out sooner to protect the next group of women from being abused the same way they was.

In these moments, the film threatens to step up another level to a point where I would be championing it for best picture, but it never quite goes for that step up and delivering something that really pulls at your emotions. It’s not that there is a joke that breaks the tension, it’s that the moments sort of fizzle out, they pass without a big moment to really punch it over the line and that’s where this film doesn’t quite make it to where it could have.

I found the subject matter horrible to watch, as a straight white dude I have not experienced anything like this and I am ashamed of the men in this story, as they stand idly by and turn a blind eye to these events. I can imagine that in the moment these situations are unbelievably difficult to manage. Their careers and personal aims would be unaffected by them staying on the outside of this, but they could lose it all by stepping into the fight for women against powerful men.

This film wasn’t about them though, and rightfully so, its focused on the women that stood up to the Mad Men style patriarchy and came out of it with an important win. I would be interested to know how this film makes women feel watching it, and I am looking forward to the conversations I will have about this film.

Good: Fantastic Performances carry this film, and it tells an important, interesting and at times powerful story.

Bad: The tone doesn’t always match the events unfolding, and the pacing took away from some of the more dramatic beats that could have elevated this film even higher.

8/10 – Bombshell is full of Bombshells.