Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir Olivia Wilde
scr Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman
prd Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison, Katie Silberman
with Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Skyler Gisondo, Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Mason Gooding, Diana Silvers, Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Eduardo Franco, Victoria Ruesga
release US 24.May.19,
UK 27.May.19
19/US Annapurna 1h42

williams sudeikis kudrow

Like a blast of fresh air, this raucous teen comedy approaches high school from an unapologetically female perspective. The film doesn't merely flip the gender, it inventively finds a new path through the usual tropes to create fantastically vivid and complex characters while indulging in the kind of silly outrageousness that has always been reserved for boys. It deserves to be a massive hit.
On the last day of school, best friends Molly and Amy (Feldstein and Dever) suddenly realise that their serious studying has caused them to miss the teen social scene. So they decide to attend a graduation party thrown by the goofy Nick (Gooding), where Amy hopes to connect with her crush Ryan (Ruesga). On the way, they are waylaid at the boat party of the class clown (Gisondo), a murder-mystery dinner thrown by a drama geek (Galvin) and the eerily constant presence of party girl Gigi (Lourd). Then the party brings its own surprises.
Actress-turned-director Wilde gives the film a terrific kick of energy, catching this lifelong friendship in a variety of clever ways, including both verbal rhythms and witty visuals. So even when Molly and Amy are separated in the script (sometimes due to standard film-school structure), they feel like an unbreakable team. This gives the movie an exhilarating "you and me against the world" tone, as they deal with individual issues and encounter a range of riotous situations.

Feldstein and Dever are a superb double-act, playing off each other while building singular characters. Feldstein is particularly good at finding Molly's bright inner spark, a blast of intelligence and humour that slowly erupts into the raucous finale. Dever gives Amy a more internalised journey that's just as involving. Around them, the youthful cast has a great time both chewing on the scenery and finding more subtle textures in each scene. Terrific actors playing teachers and parents also get their moments, but remain deliberately outside the spotlight.

It would be easy to compare this other teen comedies, and indeed the film references many traditions from this sub-genre. But by cutting through the wild and crazy surface to create vivid characters who just happen to be women, these filmmakers have made something breathtakingly original. It may ultimately be constrained by the demands of the plot, but its willingness to go to places that were previously considered taboo makes it a proper groundbreaker. And it's blindingly funny too.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 15.May.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall