BOOKSMART: When two overachieving female best friends (Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein) on the eve of their high school graduation are confronted with the reality that their more hedonistic classmates are headed for the same prestigious universities as themselves, they immediately decide that action must be taken. But unlike their peers who are more than willing to cram a semester of studying in one night to prepare for a final, the pair decide to stuff four years of missed partying in favor of watching Ken Burns documentaries into a single night of unrepentant decadence and debauchery. What ensues is a kind of domestic road trip “party crawl” where the duo experience some bizarre characters and situations that are pretty hilarious in multiple episodes involving the most pathetic yacht party ever thrown plus a loopy encounter with a pizza delivery driver (Michael Patrick O’Brien) that feels like a definite homage to a pie-delivering scene in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982). The chemistry and verbal interplay between Dever (WE DON’T BELONG HERE) and Feldstein (LADY BIRD), a.k.a. Jonah Hill’s sister, is near perfection and drives the events throughout. If there is a defect in the narrative penned by its’ four female screenwriters, it lies in the dialogue of the high school denizens who sound like they’re a little too articulate for their years even if they are going to Stanford and Yale. Plus, you have some of the adults who are stereotypically clueless in a lot of these types of teenage sex romps along with the ones who are pushing on the envelope of questionable behavior in an attempt to be cool (That seldom works.). But just about all of the juvenile supporting cast are well-written and come with a surprising amount of depth that hits very few false notes. Like most coming of age flicks, a contemporary musical soundtrack, heavy on hip-hop, is utilized to introduce characters and portend the humorous tone of varying situations. And similar to its’ cinematic predecessors from that genre, the plot feels like it wants to be a barometer of where high schoolers mindsets are now in the digital age. Although the graduation scene is over the top and the sort of thing that could only happen in a movie, BOOKSMART, for the most part, is as intelligent as its’ title and a fun ride of self-discovery for its’ main protagonists who will come to regard their meaningful adolescent friendship in the future as a fond memory coupled with the other reality that most of their high school contemporaries were real idiots. CRITIC’S GRADE: B
CLOSING CREDITS: To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944, I strongly recommend viewing two classic war films. THE LONGEST DAY (1962) is an epic “Hollywood” movie with an international all-star cast that recreates the events of D-Day on a grand scale. Some of the standout sequences include Allied paratroopers overshooting their “drop zone” and landing in a German occupied French village along with commandos grappling their way up the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc. DAY won Academy Awards for visual effects and black and white cinematography. If that work emphasized the magnitude of the operation, Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) explores the magnitude of the human life lost on that day and its’ effect on our homefront. The movie refused to sanitize the carnage of combat and the twenty-five minute sequence highlighting the invasion on Omaha Beach is a horrific depiction of war as a hell on Earth. The primary plot centers around a group of American soldiers led by Tom Hanks (FORREST GUMP) out to retrieve the title character (Matt Damon) for a ticket home after three of his brothers are killed in battle. While Spielberg’s (SCHINDLER’S LIST) work demythologizes war, he readily acknowledges the courage and sacrifice of its’ participants. RYAN won Academy Awards for direction, cinematography for Janusz Kaminski’s brilliant camera work and editing.