On the eve of graduation, two nerdy best friends realize they should’ve worked less and partied a bit more, and they aim to rectify that by cramming as much fun as they can into one night.
High school seniors Amy (Kaitlyn Dever, “Beautiful Boy”) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein, “Lady Bird”) have been best friends for a while; they spend practically every waking moment together, and they have their whole lives planned out in front of them. The day before graduation, Molly has a realization that the two of them have done nothing but study their whole high school career, and decides that the two of them are going out for to a party. As their night progresses, things get a little wild.
So, really, this movie is the female version of “Superbad” (funny because Beanie Feldstein and Jonah Hill are brother and sister). The plot points are almost exactly the same: two longtime best friends right before they graduate high school try to celebrate by doing something they’ve never really done, and in the process they learn a lot about themselves and the world around them. Honestly, there are scenes that play entirely the same way as “Superbad”, but I honestly didn’t mind it completely. I feel like the whole get-to-the-party-comedy has become it’s own subgenre now, and whenever you start to see subgenres pop up, you’ll inevitably have similarities in events. What made this movie different was the chemistry between our leads, Amy and Molly, and also the timeframe. This movie came out twelve years after “Suberbad”, and the world as we know it has changed; this is the new millennial “Superbad”.
I loved the way that this film portrayed high school, and again, the changing face of it. Movies like this- teenagers going to parties and doing stupid things- got their start in the 70s and 80s with movies like “Animal House”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or “Revenge of the Nerds”. The high schools in those films were filled with cliquey, abrasive groups of people who would pick on the downtrodden and outcast as if it was a normal part of an inescapable caste system. This film still has some of that- there are definitely moments of tension between certain groups of people, but it also takes a more honest approach: it shows us that no matter who they are, people are complex; they are not singularly one way or another. Just because they’re a jock doesn’t mean they can’t also be nerdy about some things, just because they mess around, doesn’t mean they can’t be smart; just because you’re gay doesn’t mean your best friend can’t be straight. This movie challenges norms and it pushes the envelope as far as portraying accurate representations of acceptance.
Of course, when you see a comedy, the first thing you want to know is, is it funny? Yes. Dear God, yes. This movie is freaking hysterical. There are great running gags, hilarious one-liners, and some of the best awkward comedy moments I’ve seen since early episodes of “The Office”. There are so many brilliantly uncomfortable moments in this movie where I was torn between turning away from the screen in pure embarrassment for the characters and just letting loose an unchecked cackle. There are a few gags that go on a bit too long, and some of the jokes don’t land as well as others, but I honestly think this film could go on to be revered as a classic like some of the movies I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, because, well, not every scene needs to be drum-tight in order for a viewing of a film to be rewarding. This is a very funny movie, and I’m sure I’ll watch it at least a few more times in my life.
Now, Olivia Wilde. Olivia Wilde’s directing is what really surprised me. I find a lot of comedies today are based around more improvisational humor; ie, comedic actors riffing off one another for multiple takes until they find something funny enough to use. This usually puts more power in the hands of the actors than it does the director. Movies like this can be pretty funny- most of the Judd Apatow comedies (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up”, “Your Highness”) use improvised takes. This film had a few scenes where it lets improve play out, but for the most part the directing is pretty tight. Wilde knows how she wants the scene to play out and she steers it in that direction. She made some cool choices in terms of creating an animated sequence and a brief dream-sequence dance, and there were a few really cool camera moves.
Overall, this is an incredibly enjoyable, incredibly well executed film that is getting just a bit overhyped. I would absolutely recommend this movie; I think Olivia Wilde, Kaityln Dever, and Beanie Feldstein all have some promising careers ahead of them, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from all of them.
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