movie poster for Booksmart
Promotional poster for Booksmart (2019)

Booksmart is a 2020 American coming-of-age comedy about two best friends. Molly and Amy have always kept their heads down and worked hard to get into the best colleges. Their hard work has paid off and they are now about to graduate high school to go to their dream colleges. Molly believes that she has achieved more than her classmates, who have spent their time at high school partying. The day before graduation Molly finds out that some of her classmates have also got into top colleges despite their partying. Shocked by the revelation, Molly convinces Amy that they must go to a party before they graduate so that they do not miss out on the full high school experience.

Booksmart covers many important topics relating to girlhood. One of the most poignant themes that the film explores is how girls are stereotyped not only by others (boys, parents, teachers) but also each other. The relationship Molly has with her classmate Annabelle raises interesting points about stereotyping. Annabelle is known for partying and getting the attention of boys. She received the nickname ‘Triple A’ after a rumour went round that she gave ‘roadside assistance’ to three boys during the year. Even Molly, who throughout the film makes it clear that she has strong feminist views, calls Annabelle by the nickname. Annabelle thinks Molly is boring and has no personality as all she seems to care about is school. The two girls both have assumptions about each other based on how others perceive them. Towards the end of the film Annabelle gives Molly a lift home and they bond over the stereotypes they both endure. This relationship tells the classic story of not to judge a book by its cover. Yet the twist is that the girls judge each other despite both experiencing the same highs and lows of being a high school girl. The relationship between Molly and Anabelle shows the impossible expectations put on girls. Molly is perceived as too hard working and Annabelle as too much of a party girl.

Booksmart has a refreshing perspective on female friendship. Often in films about girls, two best friends will fall out over a romantic interest. Despite romantic interests playing a part in their stories, the portrayal of Molly and Amy’s friendship focuses on them alone. When the two best friends finally reach the party they were searching for, they fall out because Amy wants to leave but Molly won’t go with her. They argue intensely over issues of trust, control and co-dependency while the rest of the party watches on in the background. Amy and Molly’s falling out shows the complexities of female friendship, especially at a young age. I think that girl best friendships are sometimes idolised in the media. They are portrayed as a bond that can only be broken by arguments over boys. Female friendships are indeed beautiful, but they are much more complicated than that–especially when you are young, it can be hard to grow at the same pace as your best friend. Booksmart explores this brilliantly. The feeling that you may need some space from your childhood best friend to grow is something I’m sure a lot of girls in their late teens can relate to.

There is so much more to Booksmart than what I have discussed. As I don’t have the room here to talk about everything, I would urge you to go and watch the film. Booksmart explores sexuality, relationships, and femininity in an equally successful way to the topics I have covered. On top if all this the film is consistently hilarious and is sure to leave you feeling warm, fuzzy and probably quite nostalgic if you are no longer a teenager!

-Asha Hall-Jones
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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