Beanie Feldstein has an unteachable quality of many comedy greats that came before her, such as Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When you watch her on-screen, you want to be her best friend.
Feldstein’s off-the-charts appeal is showcased brilliantly in the new indie comedy “Booksmart,” in which the actress rockets from “Lady Bird” sidekick to leading lady alongside Kaitlyn Dever. It’s one of the funniest movies of the year.
And, oddly enough, it’s part of an annoying subgenre that’s been attacking movie theaters like termites: boozy, drug-filled, debauched night-out films. Most of those, such as “Fun Mom Dinner” and “The Hangover Part III” belong on the cinematic dung heap. “Booksmart,” however, is part of the “Superbad” and “Girls Trip” camp — and even manages to outshine those likable movies with its heart, wit and surprises.
It’s the last day of high school for Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever), two extremely intelligent, motivated seniors who are headed for Yale and Columbia, respectively. They sneer at the slackers and stoners around them, assuming they have the IQ of a cherry tomato, until the girls have a rude awakening. The cool kids got into good schools too: Stanford, Harvard and even — shudder — Yale.
Shaken to their core, Amy and Molly sit on a hillside trying to figure out what went wrong with their lives. They could’ve been both smart and fun?
“We have fake IDs!,” reasons Amy. “Fake college IDs, so we can get into the 24-hour library!” shoots back Molly. “Nobody knows that we are fun!”
And so the pals give themselves one simple but gargantuan task: On the last night before graduation, go to a single rager. Naturally, being a movie, there are multiple unintended stops along the way — a theater kid’s murder mystery party, a yacht bash that nobody showed up to, a Lyft driven by their principal. All hilarious, and peppered with sharp comedic performances from Billie Lourd, Will Forte and Noah Galvin.
It’s a surprise that “Booksmart” is the feature directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, who’s better known as an actress. The jokes are perfectly paced, and she handles surreal, high-style sequences with complete confidence. The best of these has Molly and Amy, after being slipped a hallucinogenic, believing that they have become Barbies.
You’d be smart to book tickets.