Review – Booksmart (2019)

We are six months into the year of 2019, and as such, I’ve seen a lot of critics, and people in general, post their Top 10 Films of the Year (So Far) in either blog format or video review format. I can’t realistically do that until October, because I hardly ever watch movies in theater anymore, so I have to wait until I know I’ve seen most of them, which is three months after they are in theater and are now On Demand. On a staggering amount of lists out there is Booksmart. Not only do these critics have this on their list…but a few have it as their absolute #1! What!? Now, it DID make my list, but I believe it made my list because I haven’t seen very many movies this year, and even so, it is THIS close to getting bumped off, too. So, it’s fine…but it’s not cinematically powerful in any real or technical way…so…let’s get into it.

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.

Annapurna Pictures

Do you know the first thing that blocks this film from being terribly high in my Top 10? Originality. Essentially, this is a teen adventure comedy, not unlike Super Bad, which also wouldn’t make it into a Top 10 list. Why? Because if you love a comedy for its comedy, that’s a subjective bias that doesn’t equate to truth. Think about how it looks, how it sounds, how it is effectively pieced together from an objective standpoint instead, and you suddenly realize how other films have a better grasp at telling a story through technical elements. Now, comedies definitely have the ability to get there, but it’s surprising how many don’t really focus so much on cinematography, visuals, editing, or music. That being said, Booksmart did have a way with its music choices. The music was able to help communicate the film’s message a little more effectively than you’d typically expect from a comedy like this, but everything else behind-the-scenes was rather typical. Nothing about the visuals stood out, that includes lighting, color palette, clothing, hairstyles, production design, etc. Nothing about the camera work really told a story (other than maybe one scene underwater), and the editing just felt normal.

The comedy was on point, though, as biased as that is, it felt as though a lot of work and consideration went directly into the dialogue, helping these characters pop in a way that’s both unique and something members of the target audience can connect with. The comedy won’t work for everyone though, because there is no such thing as universally “good comedy”. It’s so hard to rate solely based on the genre because I LOVE comedy, but I don’t judge a film so much on its genre. The two hardest genres to rate are comedy and horror, as they affect everyone differently. I’ll just put it this way – the dialogue was important to the plot, so there was a lot of focus on that aspect, and the type of humor is often ridiculous and sarcastic. I will also mention it has a very good grasp at balancing that comedy out with its drama. There’s probably more comedy than drama, but it’s balanced in a way that is highly effective for what it’s going for.

A lot of people say this a coming-of-age film, and I’m kind of known for my distaste in coming-of-age, unless there’s a point. The main reason I don’t like coming-of-age is because nothing substantial happens. The cameras just follow around characters aimlessly as they do random things until they learn something about themselves. The characters are never trying to get anywhere or do anything specific…but they are in Stand By Me, and…they are in Booksmart, too, so I don’t hate it, nor do I think it fully feels like a coming-of-age film, there is plot direction, there is a plan of action, and there are obstacles…so in a sense, they worked on the writing more than they would any other coming-of-age tale.

The movie is FINE. I would even say it’s better than a most coming-of-age films, but best of the year? BEST OF THE YEAR? No, no, no. Right now, my number one film is Avengers: Endgame. Not because it’s a superhero movie, like my wife thinks, but because it is a cinematic marvel and checks off nearly every box a movie can check off in an objective manner. Booksmart checks off a few boxes, too, but it’s unoriginality and lack of focus on things going on behind-the-scenes kept it at only a slighty-higher-than-average score.

TOTAL SCORE – 78%

Current 2019 Rankings:
Overall: 9th Place out of 45 movies
Comedy: 4th Place out of 19 movies
Drama: 3rd Place out of 15 movies
Adventure: 5th Place out of 13 movies

Other Comedy Films rated 78%:
Veronica Mars
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
John Tucker Must Die
Shanghai Knights

Specs:
PEOPLE SCORE (16/20)
Acting (3/4) | Characters (3/4) | Casting (4/4) | Importance (2/4) | Chemistry (4/4)
WRITING SCORE (7/10)
Dialogue (2/2) | Balance (2/2) | Story Depth (1/2) | Originality (0/2) | Concept (2/2)
BEHIND-THE-SCENES SCORE (7/10)
Visuals (1/2) | Cinematography (1/2) | Editing (1/2) | Advertising (2/2) | Music & Sound (2/2)
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE (9/10)
Introduction (2/2) | Inciting Incident (2/2) | Obstacles (2/2) | Climax (2/2) | Falling Action (1/2)
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE (4/10)
Rewatchability (1/2) | Fun Experience (2/2) | Impulse to Buy or Own (0/2) | Impulse to Talk about or Recommend (0/2) | Engaging & Riveting (1/2)
SPECIALTY SCORE (35/40)
Kaitlyn Dever (10/10) | Comedy (10/10) | Drama (5/10) | Halfway Decent (10/10)

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