Review: Booksmart

Booksmart follows Molly and Amy, best friends on the cusp of graduating high school, who realise they’ve almost completely let the high school party experience pass them by. The night before graduation they have two goals: 1) go to a rager hosted by one of their classmates and 2) get Amy to kiss the girl she’s been crushing on.

 
Booksmart is a ridiculous, fun, smart romp reminiscent of Superbad and its kin. The tropes are familiar: an awkward nerd with a crush and a highly-strung future leader with no time for dating, go out and make a set of poorly planned decisions and things go awry very quickly. Unlike its predecessors, Booksmart doesn’t have hyper-masculine, dirty boy humour, despite sex being an important component of Amy’s character development. It felt revolutionary to watch this kind of film without endless dick imagery or stupid dildo jokes. The topic of female masturbation is broached, but it’s done in a sensitive and funny way, without the meanness or sense of shame of other comedies like this. Female friendship is a cornerstone of the film and much of the driving force behind its comedy. The film goes out to break much of the stereotypes surrounding female friendships: Molly and Amy are sex-positive (there’s a scene where the two of them watch lesbian porn in the back of a Lyft that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure), they care about each other, and most importantly the emotional crux of the film, their big fight, is not about a boy they’re both trying to sleep with.

 
I enjoyed Molly as a character and her growth was both funny and heartwarming, but seeing a character like Amy is breath of fresh air. Amy is an out lesbian who is crushing on a girl she’s not sure is interested in other girls. It was so nice to see a queer character who was not struggling with her sexuality and her own identity but with the very teenage experience of having a crush on someone. There was also a sex scene between Amy and another girl that wasn’t hypersexualised but awkward and kind of sweet and very funny. Amy is the kind of lesbian storytelling we need more of – her queerness isn’t ignored but it’s also not the only aspect of her personality.

 
The only criticism I have of this film is the relationship between Ms Fine, the girl’s teacher, and a student who has repeated the seventh grade three times. Technically the student was twenty and of legal age and Ms. Fine was a young teacher, but the relationship still sat wrongly on what was otherwise a sharply feminist film. Reducing a comedy actor Jessica Williams, who played Miss Fine, to a lonely teacher who sleeps with a student seems like a waste of talent and opportunity.

 
I really enjoyed this film and I’d recommend it to anyone. Hopefully it’s the first of many female-led coming-of-age movies.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough

5 stars

Deviant Women: Madame Blavatsky

After a triumphant five-star show about the swashbuckling Julie D’Aubigny, Deviant Women returned to the stage with the story of nineteenth century occultist Madame Helena Blavatsky. This time round the pink puffy dresses were replaced with gothic black gowns and the show had an altogether darker feel. This isn’t to say that it was all serious- it wouldn’t be a Deviant Women stage show without laughter, silly hats and flamboyant acting. All the comedic goods were out on display, bringing a whole lot of fun to this tale of spirits and séances.

Using the same artful storytelling characteristic of their regular podcast, along with some spooky shadow poetry and an on-stage séance, hosts Lauren and Alicia brought Helena’s story to life with flair and attention to detail.

Deviant Women always aims to give the audience as much knowledge as entertainment. As academics, Lauren and Alicia always strive to provide rich biographical detail on the women they talk about. Their biographical run-down of Madame Blavatsky’s life was no different.

Since her childhood in Russia, where the auspicious date of her birth connected her deeply with spirits and other otherworldly beings, Helena was destined to lead a life bound with the occult. Helena rebelled against many of the rigidly moralistic ideals of the nineteenth century. She married but denied her husband sex (a big no-no in the Victorian period) and often chose to travel alone.

During her travels she held séances and decried trickery (like the ghosts in bedsheets and stuffed gloves that were mainstays of many parlour séances). Her interest in other religions led her to adopt many aspects of spiritualist practices from around the world, including Buddhist and Hindu traditions. She was the mother of the new-age movement and founder of Theosophy. She was a woman who accomplished a lot during her life (despite smoking to excess, drinking and a penchant for hashish).

The absolute highlight of the night was the on-stage séance. From inviting an audience member to join in the summoning of a ghost (which did yield a stuffed glove which Lauren used to stroke the volunteer’s face while their eyes were closed), to Lauren emerging in a bed sheet and mask to sweep about the crowd offering an ectoplasm covered arm, the séance was filled with the fun and trickery you’d expect from a Victorian era party.

The Jade was the perfect venue for the cosy but slightly spooky feel of the stage, and the dark lighting and sounds of thunder made for the perfect ambience for a story of the occult.

Deviant Women: Madam Blavatsky was a perfect blend of dark and comedic, of the spooky and the playful. It was a night any Victorian lady or gentleman would be proud of.


Words by Lisandra Linde

Five stars.

For more about Deviant Women don’t forget to check out their podcast or catch their interview with Tulpa and Jess M. Miller’s review of their first stage show: Julie D’Aubigny.