Booksmart manages to make LGBTQ+ stories the norm without any ‘historic hardships’

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By Daisy Game, Entertainment Sub-Editor

This LGBTQ+ History Month, our writers are looking at LGBTQ+ history and content in cinema.

Sex, drugs, and I’m-here-to-first-get-an-A-and-then-to-get-out-of-this-godforsaken-town-style Rock’n’Roll: starring feisty up-and-coming-s Kaitlyn Dever (Amy) and Beanie Feldstein (Molly), Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is not only a bloody good time, but also a fabulously understated two-fingers-up all lazy, two dimensional efforts at LGBTQ+ on screen representation.

Beanie Feldstein and director Olivia Wilde take a conversational break behind-the-scenes | IMDb / Annapurna Pictures

Wilde’s first stab at direction - all hats currently worn to be removed with immediate effect: the House (2004-12) actresses’ skills turn out to be wild indeed. Booksmart (2019) follows dream-duo Molly, Valedictorian, Yale swot to be, and Amy, fellow smart kid, making-tampons-for-women-in-Botswana philanthropist to be, through the forty eight hours of highly irregular – and highly entertaining - madness rolling up to graduation day.

Molly is a dweeb, and proud. Determined to prove all the doubters wrong - or, as her rather excellent Monday morning hype-podcast more specifically asserts, to academically ‘fuck those losers’ – this VAL is unbothered by her somewhat lacking social engagement with her classmate’s day in day outs. She got into Yale, they didn’t; she has a future - prospects - the whole shebang - they don’t. End of, job done - she’ll catch them on the flip side. Or… will she?

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Upon the utterly horrifying discovery that the kids who used their fake ID’s for a teensy bit more than simply blabbing their way into the college library on the weekend would also be skipping their ways into Ivy League schools come the fall – Molly spins into fully-fledged-panic-mode. Demanding that Amy accompany her to the final party of the year, they bust some moves on the dance floor, and prove once and for all that – yes, they’re wicked smart – but they can party just as hard as the cool kids.

Booksmart is an ode to female friendships, kindness, and coming-of-age | IMdb / Annapurna Pictures

What follows is an electric hour and a half of one outrageous hoot to the next. From anatomically misjudged late night ventures - hint: ‘I don’t think that’s the hole you think it is’ - to a ‘sexy documentary’ screening in the back seat of a well sound system-ed taxi - spoilers: sexy documentary = porn, porn = LOUD - Feldstein and Dever riff off one another with obvious glee, and stellar ease.

But Booksmart is not only an exercise in the delightfully ridiculous and fantastically entertaining - it is also a quiet step toward proving that not all LGBTQ+ on screen characters must depict the historic hardship.

Please, please don’t misunderstand me: I am in no way, shape or form devaluing the place of films which choose to depict on the past – and present - of oppression and misrepresentation experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. Such films were, are, and always will be of huge importance within the cinematic field.

It just seems that often, our cinematic representation of the LGBTQ+ experience dwells on the pain - and forgets the every day joy of it all. There’s something wonderful about a film which nudges difficulty to the wayside for a moment, in favour of a more celebratory approach.

Booksmart celebrates sexuality and gender expression in all its wonderful forms | IMDb / Annapurna Pictures

Wilde chooses not to spend time throwing the story back to Amy’s coming out: it happened ‘in the fifth grade’, and that’s all we need to say about that. Amy is Amy – not a tick in a box, not a pointed finger: just a girl, with a crush. She isn’t there to make a point, and there is zero feeling that Amy has been shoehorned in as a kind of trend-tapping move of forcedly ‘progressive’ narrative. Booksmart’s engagement with LGBTQ+ is natural, and understatedly impressive.

Booksmart is a quiet step toward proving that not all LGBTQ+ on screen characters must depict the historic hardship

Booksmart isn’t about ‘Amy’s sexuality’ – ironic air quotations fully intended; it’s about the sweat, blood and - flood-barrier-warranting - tears of the high school corridor; it’s about good grades versus bad grades, debate kids VS drama kids, valedictorian speeches versus backseat blowjobs. It’s about teenagers at the Friday night party, having a bloody good time.

It is perhaps - certainly - telling that this is a film which took nigh on ten years to be accepted for full production. With the first draft of the script – written in 2009 by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins – almost immediately blacklisted, Booksmart was rejected once more after its initial red-buzzer moment before being plonked in the enthusiastic lap of Ms Wilde.

Amy and Molly's friendship is not impacted by either of their sexualities, as it should be | IMDb / Annapurna Pictures

‘It was something that people kept attempting to make because it obviously was needed in society – but it’s almost as if society needed to catch up with the idea itself’ she hypothesised when discussing Booksmart’s decade long hike to the big screen.

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But now that it is… finally… here – Booksmart’s here to stay. ‘Someone texted us and said that it's their new sleepover movie’, a delighted Feldstein grinned in conversation with Ally Plumb, going on to revel in the image of ‘someone snuggling up with their friend watching it with a snack’.

So go on – delight Beanie further: wrestle your duvet down the stairs, fish the custard creams out of the cupboard, and nestle on down into the squashy depths of your crappy student sofa: it’s Booksmart time.

Featured: IMDb / Annapurna Pictures


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