August 23rd, 2019


Four Stars

When I talk to other people who grew up in the 20th Century, we are grateful.

We had the good fortune to grow up during a time of prosperity and relative unity and sanity.

It feels like young adults today are facing more nightmarish problems than we ever had to deal with.

It feels possible that the mass movement of people to different continents might lead to civil wars and wars of religion.

It feels possible that the stark divisions between coastal America and middle America might lead to the dissolution of the United States as we know it.

It feels possible that the technology that has already stolen their attention may also rob them of the dignity of employment and freedom of thought.

“Booksmart” is an energetic, optimistic counterpoint to my curmudgeonly predictions. It is a teen comedy that presents 21st Century America as a near utopia for the people young and brave enough to embrace it.

Molly and Amy are graduating high school in suburban Los Angeles. They have studied harder than everyone and joined all the right organizations. They have steadfastly avoided parties, drugs, and dating. They have been rewarded for their seriousness with admission to Yale and Columbia respectively.

Then it suddenly dawns on Molly: the other kids at school are headed off to good schools or awesome jobs in Silicon Valley, too. They got good grades AND had fun. Molly and Amy missed out.

So intrepid Molly convinces hesitant Amy to go out and make up for lost time with an epic night of partying.

They experience formulaic but funny R-Rated sex and drug hijinks. But they also learn about their classmates who they had dismissed as jocks and sluts and burnouts.

“Booksmart” is a happy spin on “The Breakfast Club.” Instead of learning that other teenagers have relatable problems and insecurities, Molly and Amy learn that their classmates are awesome, interesting, lovable, and eager to embrace them.

First-time director Olivia Wilde also surprised me with her subtle social and political commentary. She observes that California’s Generation Z is uniformly, unflinchingly Leftist. Molly and Amy worship a trio of goddesses: Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Malala Yousafzai.

But Molly and Amy aren’t actively anti-Republican. To them, a Christian Conservative would be an alien being speaking a different language. They’ve never seen one, except on television; and Gen Z doesn’t watch much TV.

The kids at school aren’t Woke, they were born and raised tolerant. Molly and Amy go to a diverse school, but race is never mentioned.

Amy came out of the closet as a sophomore. Because why not? The notion that anyone in her life wouldn’t be supportive never occurred to her.

In the end, “Booksmart” taught me how ridiculous I am to feel sorry for young people today. 21st Century America is their happy home, and it may be better than ever.


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