REVIEW: BOOKSMART (2019)

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BOOKSMART (2019)

Best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) have their sights set beyond high school and have stuck to their studies, ignoring any social life beyond their own friendship. On the eve of graduation, Yale-headed Molly finds out her school partier rivals have also gotten into good schools without making the sacrifices she has. Now Molly and Amy are determined to prove they can have fun and decide to attended the best graduation party in town…if they can find it.

Booksmart is a very impressive and stylish directorial debut from actress Olivia Wilde. The script is credited to four writers and while that would normally be a possible sign of trouble, here it is a clever and sometimes heartfelt collaboration. Booksmart doesn’t reinvent the high school coming of age comedy, but it does delightfully revitalize it. Wilde and her writers tackle all the usual high school themes like the social hierarchy and teen romance, but approaches them in a fresh and fun way. There is some wonderfully witty dialogue and the script and director don’t shy away from more contemporary themes with some openly gay characters such as Amy herself. Part of the whole reason the girls are headed to Nick’s (Mason Gooding) party is so Amy can spend time with tattooed skater-girl Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and Molly can finally admit she has a crush on Nick. The outcome of their last night of school quest is both realistic, poignant and fun…and that’s what makes this flick work so well. A perfect blend. The characters are treated with respect and even stereotype characters avoid feeling like clichés. They are very human, such as Molly Gordon’s girl with a reputation “Triple A”. She surprises us by not only being a likable and feisty young lady, but her acceptance into Yale, too, is one of the reasons that drives Molly to want this one night of decadence. The film handles multiple characters well and aside from not shying away from serious themes, the film can be a lot of raunchy fun and there are layers of wit and cleverness to go with it, so it avoids being just vulgar. It’s a very offbeat and heartfelt coming of age story that never forgets to be decadent fun and is smart about doing it. No better example of this is a delightful stop motion animation sequence when Amy and Molly are given some drugged strawberries. Inventive, demented and hilariously funny.

The film presents a great cast of eccentric yet familiar characters and the actors all do great work under Wilde’s guidance. Beanie Feldstein is simply wonderful as nerdy, ambitious Molly. A girl who hit the books running and on the eve of her moving on to college, finds out, hilariously, that she could have had a little fun along the way. The actress has great comic timing and plays the dramatic moments strongly. A star in the making. Same can be said of Kaitlyn Dever whose openly gay Amy is a sweet, sensitive and spirited young woman who joins her friend on this one last hurrah before leaving high school to do volunteer work in Africa. There are a host of delightfully portrayed off-beat characters to support them. Billie Catherine Lourd is a lot of fun as the weird rich girl Gigi. Skyler Gisondo as the shameless self promoter Jared, who may not be as shallow as he appears. Mason Gooding is solid as the school hunk Nick. Victoria Ruesga is also good as Amy’s crush Ryan and Molly Gordon makes her “school slut” character, Triple A, very likable and human. There are also some veterans in the cast such as Jason Sudeikis as Principal Jordan, Lisa Kudrow as Amy’s oddball mom Charmaine and Will Forte as her equally quirky dad Doug. Simply a great cast.

Overall, this was a dynamite debut for director Olivia Wilde. It refreshes both the high school coming of age flick and the characters set within such stories. It has a great cast including wonderful performances by it’s leads and is not afraid or shies away from more serious and contemporary themes. It also approaches it’s characters all with sensitivity and respect and portrays it’s gay characters as simply part of the story without turning them into showcase set pieces. Bravo to Olivia Wilde and writers Katie Silberman, Sarah Haskins, Emily Halpern and Susanna Fogel. A great indie movie!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) graduation caps.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: COLOSSAL (2016)

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COLOSSAL (2017)

Very weird flick from Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes, Open Windows) has troubled alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) getting the boot from her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), prompting her to move back to her family house in her home town. Not only does she reconnect with childhood schoolmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), but is shocked to find a gigantic creature is attacking Seoul, Korea. In a weird turn of events, Gloria soon finds that she and the gigantic creature are somehow connected, as it mimics her actions and only appears when she is in the park where a fateful event once took place a long time ago.

Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo concocts a very strange tale that almost works. It’s first half is oddly engaging despite the really weird premise and we are eager to find out what this strange beast has to do with Gloria, who is struggling to get her life together. It’s in the flick’s second half where Sudeikis’ Oscar shows his true colors, that it becomes a rather unpleasant movie as Oscar becomes more and more abusive towards Gloria. We do get some answers to our questions, but the film, at that point, stops being fun. One can appreciate Vigalondo’s boldness and the originality of his tale, but when it goes from Gloria’s whimsical and comic attempts to unravel a “colossal” mystery to her conflict with the mean-spirited and bitter Oscar, both creature and movie lose their grip.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

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SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Offbeat romantic comedy tells the story of Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis). Twelve years ago they lost their virginities to each other in college and never saw each other again, until reconnecting twelve years later at a meeting for love addicts. Now, despite that neither of them can stay faithful in a relationship, they form a bond which may lead to the thing they both have been running away from since that fateful night…true love.

Writer/director Leslye Headland delivers a rarity, a romantic comedy that is not only cleverly funny and delightfully raunchy, but has some very heartfelt emotions that are never intrusive or overbearing. The film tries to avoid many of the clichés we are used to seeing in the more mainstream rom-com flicks and when it can’t, it uses them in a fresh and offbeat manner. Best of all, it is raunchy as can be, but unlike most flicks these days, there is some definite wit behind the raunch and thus it rarely, if ever, slips into the just plain vulgar, like so many other flicks fall right into. It gives us two very eccentric, troubled but very likable characters in Lainey and Jake and we are rooting for them to finally get together as we watch them avoid the inevitable, by continuously entering in relationships that aren’t right for them. The banter between Sudeikis and Brie is really crisp, funny and very well written and the delivery by both actors is impeccable. There is also a genuine heart to this flick that makes it work so well without ever getty sappy or overly sentimental. Sure it stumbles a bit in the last act, but regains it’s footing and gives us a satisfying conclusion fitting the eclectic characters.

This brings to the forefront the skilled cast that Headland has assembled. Community‘s Alison Brie is endearing as sweet but, very love-challenged Lainey who avoids risking her heart by pursuing a man (Adam Scott) with his own commitments. Sudeikis is really good as the kind-hearted ladies man, Jake, who avoids putting his heart at risk by sleeping around and breaking off anything that starts to resemble a relationship. He has some really clever dialogue and delivers it masterfully and has a nice self deprecating humor that keeps the character humbled despite his numerous conquests. He and Brie have a great chemistry together and their conversations are engaging and often hilariously dirty. There is also a definite spark between the two stars and you can see their feelings bubbling beneath all the evasiveness and denial. There is also top notch support from Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and Marc Blucas as the various people around our leads. All slightly eclectic characters that refreshingly avoid the stereotypes that usually populate these movies.

I really enjoyed this flick. Not only was a it an engaging romance, but was delightfully offbeat, cleverly written and very raunchy and funny. It had a sweet love story at it’s core surrounded by some eccentric but endearing characters. Filmmaker Leslye Headland gives some needed wit to the dirtier material and gets great chemistry and performances out of her cast. She also films New York with a loving lens and it makes you fall in love with the city, as well as, the characters she’s let loose inside it. A really entertaining indie romantic comedy.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 green tea bottles…just watch the movie.

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