Coming-of-age comedies have a bad habit of recycling John Hughes tropes, with the raunchiness of the jokes providing the only significant source of variation. Fortunately, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart brings a fresh perspective to the largely stagnant genre. The plot couldn’t be more straightforward: after discovering that their irresponsible classmates have all managed to get into prestigious colleges, two overachieving high school seniors embark on an Odyssey-esque quest to attend at least one epic party before graduation; along the way, they encounter numerous of obstacles that test the limits of their friendship and force them to reevaluate their priorities. While the surface-level conflict initially appears to be rather simple, the subtext reveals rich and complex themes. The exaggerated setting and seemingly-stereotypical characters (from dumb jocks to flamboyant theater nerds) perfectly capture the anxiety of that terrifying transitional period between “teenager” and “young adult,” when carefully-constructed plans and dreams and identities begin to buckle under the mounting pressures of the "real world."
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