Joining the likes of Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig and Girls’ Lena Dunham, actor Olivia Wilde has taken her talents behind the camera and proved herself one of the hottest new indie directors going with feature debut Booksmart.
A whip-smart, snortingly hilarious high school comedy – but definitely not just for teenagers – Booksmart stars Short Term 12’s Kaitlyn Dever and Lady Bird’s Beanie Feldstein as besties Amy and Molly.
Wilde, 35, totally nails the inherent drama of two young women focused on academic success, but worried that life passed them by.
Although Booksmart struggled at 2019’s tough US box office, The Hollywood Reporter critics hailed it one of the top 10 best movies of the year so far.
Critic John DeFore called it, “as raucous as Superbad, but with characters who are even more full of surprises.”
Written by Black-ish producers Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins and polished by The Spy Who Dumped Me’s Susanna Fogel and Set It Up scribe Katie Silberman, Booksmart has the big teen energy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as Amy and Molly let it all hang loose the night before graduation.
Launching an extended Uber-quest across LA in search of the coolest party, they’re unprepared for how wild things get.
It leads to the movie’s most wince-inducing laugh as they accidentally play lesbian porn to their headmaster (Wilde’s husband Jason Sudeikis) who shows up unexpectedly as one of their drivers on a side hustle.
With scene-stealing cameos by Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourde and Friends star Lisa Kudrow, the movie showcases Wilde’s gift for comic timing.
Her ability to keep sight of the tender, awkward moments behind the guffaws is remarkable, recalling Gerwig and Dunham’s work.
It’s a lot harder than it looks to land this stuff. Wilde has done the hard yards, picking up tips from directors like Martin Scorsese (Vinyl) and Spike Jonze (Her) along the way.
She landed her first regular TV gig on dark Fox drama Skin. It was a swiftly cancelled flop, but nonetheless saw Wilde parachuted by Fox execs into their much more successful series The O.C.
Wilde also cropped up on popular Hugh Laurie vehicle House.
Her first high-profile movie appearance was as digitally enhanced Quorra in the so-so 1980s sci-fi sequel Tron: Legacy (2010) opposite Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges, swiftly followed by Cowboys & Aliens (2011) with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.
Some of her best work has been in low-key slacker dramas like Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies, which shares DNA with Booksmart, and her brief appearance in Her as a flesh and blood date for a digital Scarlett Johansson-besotted Joaquin Phoenix.
Cutting her teeth directorially on Glamour mag-backed short Free Hugs and music videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Wilde recently told Vanity Fair she hopes more aspiring women get offered the big break they deserve.
“The only way we’re going to make any headway as female directors in this industry is if more people take risks on new talent,” the mother of two said.
“Because inherently, for more female directors to have their films green lit, they’re going to have to have someone see them, and their passion, and their skill, regardless of their resume.”
Judging by the brilliance of Booksmart, and the soaring careers of Gerwig and Dunham, it’s about blooming time Hollywood took notice of the next-gen women who are good to go.