Booksmart Movie Review

Booksmart is about intelligent people with a lot left to learn. It’s a teen comedy that exists within the confines we expect. Yet it does so with characters who are flawed and likable and not stereotypical. As a directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, it’s a stylish accomplishment with a keen eye for casting. Like Superbad from over a decade ago, it convinces us that the two leads are best friends with a long history.

Kaitlyn Dever is Amy. She’s been out of the closet for two years and is planning a summer sabbatical in Africa post graduation. Amy hasn’t been out socially in her formative years and neither has her BFF Molly (Beanie Feldstein). She’s the class president with a ticket to Yale and a crush on the hunky VP who’s Mr. Popularity. On the final day of school, the duo decide to finally attend the biggest grad party of them all. It takes various excursions to get there and it doesn’t help that they don’t know the address.

As we suspect, Amy and Molly’s bond is tested as crushes are explored and unexpected romantic interests materialize. Both performers do a remarkable job with their chemistry and individual moments. A heated argument between them is shot to perfection. With a screenplay from four female writers, their interplay seems heartfelt and real.

That’s not to say some cliches aren’t overdone. Of course they’re going to be accidentally drugged, but the animated sequence accompanying that occurrence is a joy. Wilde’s hubby Jason Sudeikis shows up as the school principal/Lyft driver. Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte are Amy’s parents. These are well known comic actors, but the young adults playing high schoolers in the supporting cast truly stand out. This includes Billie Lourd as a rich girl who seems to be everywhere at all times and Skyler Gisondo as her best bud who tries too hard but has his heart in the right place.

That description applies to Booksmart as a whole. Like many of the best pics in this genre, it’s happily R rated. The writers don’t pigeonhole the kids as know it alls or morons, but as genuine seniors who make mistakes and do the right thing often when tested. Booksmart doesn’t always break the mold in this well worn genre, but it provides plenty of laughs and sincerity as Amy and Molly turn a page.

*** (out of four)

2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Booksmart Box Office Prediction

The best known actress involved with Booksmart is making her directorial debut and is not in front of the camera. Yet the pic is riding a wave of critical kudos since its premiere at South by Southwest in March. The comedy is centered on two teenage girls and their last day of high school. Olivia Wilde makes that aforementioned first turn in the captain’s chair. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird) are the two graduates. Costars include Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s hubby).

Booksmart stands at a super fresh 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could still face hurdles when it opens over the long Memorial Day weekend. Opening on approximately 2300 screens, I’m skeptical as to its awareness factor among general audiences. This could be a slow builder if word-of-mouth takes off or become a cult hit following the theatrical release.

I’ll say a debut in the upper single digits is where this starts out at.

Booksmart opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Aladdin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/14/aladdin-box-office-prediction/

For my Brightburn prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/15/brightburn-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Life Itself Box Office Prediction

The ensemble drama Life Itself opens next weekend and it likely faces an uphill battle for eyeballs. Dan Fogelman, best known as creator of NBC’s hit series “This Is Us”, directs. The cast includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Life premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last week to poor reviews and word of mouth. It stands at just 20% on Rotten Tomatoes and the marketing campaign has been lackluster.

Add all that up and this is looking like a major flop that could struggle to hit $5 million.

Life Itself opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my The House with a Clock in Its Walls prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/11/the-house-with-a-clock-in-its-walls-box-office-prediction/

For my Fahrenheit 11/9 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/fahrenheit-11-9-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Life Itself

The film festival season always gives us plenty of Best Picture contenders and potential recipients for the acting categories and elsewhere. There’s also those movies that debut and completely eliminate themselves from contention due to poor reviews. At Toronto, that definitely appears to be the case with Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself (not to be confused with the terrific documentary about Roger Ebert).

Fogelman is most known for creating the hit NBC tearjerker series “This Is Us”. For his second feature film (after the barely noticed Al Pacino led Danny Collins), he’s assembled a cast including Oscar Isaac, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Simply put, critical reaction here has been bad, saying it’s manipulative and corny. Bottom line: Life Itself has taken itself out of any awards talk.

The film opens September 21. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Love the Coopers Box Office Prediction

The Christmas season hits the box office in mid November as the holiday themed  Love the Coopers opens next Friday. With an all-star cast including John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Arkin, the family affair will look to cash in with audiences looking for some Xmas cheer.

Its prospects are a bit sketchy. Trailers and TV spots for Coopers have done little to make it look like another run of the mill big ensemble experience. Its best hope is to bring in a female audience looking for a diversion from James Bond, which should still be performing like gang busters in weekend #2.

That might be enough to help it reach double digits, though I don’t believe that’s guaranteed. I could actually see this debuting in line with The Family Stone, a similarly themed comedy which opened 10 years ago. Solid word of mouth could push it to perform in subsequent weekends yet that remains to be seen.

Love the Coopers opening weekend prediction: $11.3 million

For my The 33 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/06/the-33-box-office-prediction/

For my My All-American prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/07/my-all-american-box-office-prediction/