I’m not sure what I was expecting from actress turned director Olivia Wilde’s filmmaking debut, Booksmart, but it was definitely more than the sum total of the painful experience that I was forced to endure at a recent press screening. The collective noise of the critical praise for this baby has been gradually building into a deafening roar and I must admit that I’m more than a bit befuddled at that fact. I kept asking myself why as I sat stone faced and with my arms folded while the remainder of my colleagues roared with laughter during the film’s unspooling. And yet I didn’t laugh once and even without so much as a chuckle. Instead I sat with a sense of amazement that this film could even get bankrolled much less met with a nearly flawless critical reception that it has in the past several weeks. Who knew?

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein in Booksmart

The plot of the film is about as threadbare and well worn as one could possibly imagine. It’s basically an updated version of the 2007 film, Superbad, which was decent but far from a classic to begin with. In Booksmart we basically have two best friends, Amy and Molly, both of whom are on the cusp of graduation from high school. Molly finds herself in a conundrum. She’s attracted to one of the class jocks but, being the intellectual type that she happens to be, finds herself repulsed at the idea of pinning her romantic hopes on someone so intellectually lacking. The bulk of the movie finds her going through the notions of locating a party where Nick, the aforementioned class jock, is likely to be found along with her friend Amy in tow. In terms of plot that’s about it folks and I’m being generous.

The problem with Booksmart, along with how unfunny it is, is in how calculated it all feels. It reeks of something striving way too hard to be accepted by its target audience, namely those under the age of 21. As if the filmmakers were bending over backwards in an effort to please. There are characters in the film that feel as if they were inserted simply for the reason of pleasing certain audience members. Strangely, it also has about as much resemblance to the world in which we live as a fantasy film might have. Booksmart gives us a world where characters, despite differences in race, gender and sexual orientation, are readily accepted by their peers. Not only is that a ridiculous notion but it’s also mildly insulting. It’s only one of the problems that plague this abhorrent film.

Booksmart is playing everywhere.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.