Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Smart

Title - Book Smart

Written By - Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins

Book Smart is another Black List 2009 script, receiving 13 votes. The premise?

"Two overachieving high school seniors realize that the only thing that they haven't accomplished is having boyfriends, and each resolves to find one by prom."

So, being a big girl I was attracted to this script from the get-go. I love high-school movies, but there's been few recent ones that are girl-oriented that have actually been good, the one glaring exception being the Tina Fey-penned Mean Girls which is one of my all-time favourite films. So, how does Book Smart compare?

Book Smart tells the story of best friends AMY and MOLLY. They're extremely high-achieving, and have gotten into Yale and Columbia. One day it dawns on them that the only things missing from their high-school experience are boyfriends. Now these girls aren't so engrossed in their studies that they haven't noticed any boys that appeal to them. AMY likes a high-school jock by the name of Ryan while MOLLY likes CONOR, her co-president of the student council. They enlist the help of their old friend JULIA to help them find boyfriends by prom. JULIA encourages them to attend parties, dress differently and join different extra-curricular activities to help attract the notice of RYAN and CONOR. AMY joins the softball team, as RYAN plays baseball, and the baseball & softball teams often have to share buses to events, while MOLLY auditions for the school musical Guys & Dolls where Conor is the leading man. AMY successfully manages to attract the attention of RYAN, but MOLLY encounters unforeseen difficulties - CONOR likes the female lead of Guys & Dolls  ROSE. MOLLY, consumed with jealousy, proceeds to spread rumours that ROSE is a slut, however it does little to deter CONOR. However, MOLLY decides to take matters into her own hands and asks CONOR to prom, an offer he accepts. During this little project, AMY and MOLLY drift apart somewhat, thanks in no small part to MOLLY's mini-psychotic obsession with CONOR.
So, MOLLY and CONOR go to prom and AMY and RYAN go to prom. There, MOLLY can no longer deny the fact that CONOR likes ROSE, and goes to the bathroom to cry. JULIA comforts her but tells her that they need to find AMY as she's gone into a room with RYAN alone. They find her with relative ease in a hotel room, where AMY'S reading Gideon's Bible while RYAN wrestles with his friend. She leaves, everyone's happy. MOLLY asks AMY if RYAN's her boyfriend. AMY's like "I prefer the term 'friends with benefits'", and then they're both like "There'll be boyfriends in college." They continue walking home and FADE OUT.


Okay, so reading my synopsis there, one might arrive at the conclusion that Book Smart is just another teen comedy. Nothing special. And in some ways, one might be right. It's not overly special or even original, but there's something about it that's really wonderful. Amy and Molly are innocent to the ways of the world in a multitude of ways, but Halpern and Haskins succeed in making their innocence/naivete endearing - these girls might have a lot going for them academic-wise, but in pursuing their goals, they have neglected to partake in important parts of the adolescent experience, and so they are lacking and we can root for them.

One thing that I loved in this script was that AMY and MOLLY weren't Juno-esque wise cracking girls, the new teenage female stereotype that's pervading a lot of scripts (see Freshly Popped or Betty's Ready). They were smart and sometimes funny, but they weren't smarter than everybody else in the film. They weren't cool, but they weren't total nerds either. In other words - they actually resembled real teenage girls.

Another thing - Molly's pursuit of Conor might seem a little psychotic, but let me tell you - teenage girls do crazy things if they like someone enough. So while it was a little embarassing to read, it was pretty true to the actions of teenage girls, and what I loved was that Conor didn't respond to these actions. Hell, he didn't respond to Molly full stop. If this were any other movie, Molly and Conor would have been crowned prom king & queen.

One thing that I had kind of an issue with was that there wasn't really enough interaction between Amy and Ryan. One minute he sits next to her on the bus, the next minute they're going to prom. There wasn't enough of a build-up of their relationship, and I would have enjoyed a few more moments with just the two of them, so we could see what drew Ryan to Amy and vice-versa.

All in all, Book Smart is an entertaining teen comedy. It's no Mean Girls, but it's got some killer moments and lines. The characters are real, the ending was more authentic than a lot of high school movies (hi, Easy A! You were great and all, but your ending made me want to barf!) and it all just felt very genuine and wonderful.  Definitely worth a read.

Grade - B+

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