“Booksmart” aims to be the anthem of a generation

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“Booksmart” aims to be the anthem of a generation

The upcoming comedy

The upcoming comedy "Booksmart" is set to release May 24, 2019.

Photo courtesy DannyB Photos, Creative Commons. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode. No changes were made.

The upcoming comedy "Booksmart" is set to release May 24, 2019.

Photo courtesy DannyB Photos, Creative Commons. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode. No changes were made.

Photo courtesy DannyB Photos, Creative Commons. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode. No changes were made.

The upcoming comedy "Booksmart" is set to release May 24, 2019.

Juan A. Ramirez, news correspondent

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As part of a publicity road trip, some of the cast and crew of the upcoming comedy “Booksmart” stopped in Boston last Thursday to speak with college journalists after a special preview screening. The team consisted of director Olivia Wilde, writer Katie Silberman and stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever.

Wilde’s feature debut follows two straight-A, straight-edge high school seniors who set out to make up for four years of lost partying the night before graduation. With a fresh, insightful look at high school life and a heartfelt female friendship at its core, the film makes the most out of its young stars and announces the arrival of an exciting new director.

“I knew I wanted to do a movie, and my dream was to make a generational anthem,” Wilde said. “I was wondering, ‘Where’s my ‘Breakfast Club’?’ I didn’t know how it would come into my life, and then I read an original draft of this script and thought it was inside this story, but needed to be updated for this generation.”

Wilde said she turned to Silberman to transform the script, and the two collaborated on its revisions.

“I think a fun way to approach what you want to work on is [asking], ‘What is the movie that I want to see? What is a movie I haven’t seen yet?’” Silberman said. “Trying to make something that would be your favorite movie when you were in high school is the bar to set. That’s when it becomes authentic and real and meaningful to you.”

Part of refreshing the script included adjusting the characters to a world in which gender and sexuality are part of everyday life.

“What makes me so honored and proud to be a part of this movie is that it so beautifully represents the generation that we’re all living in right now where no one really cares,” Dever said. “I think Olivia didn’t want to put anyone in a box, and in preparing with Amy, we didn’t really talk about our sexuality [as part of our characterization].”

The film features a variety of LGBTQ+ characters — including Dever’s character, Amy — from a refreshingly multidimensional point of view.

“A lot of times in high school movies, there’s one of everyone: there’s a queer character, and that becomes their defining feature. And in this movie, there are so many that they each get to have their own defining features outside of their sexualities,” Silberman said. “We felt like it was another representation of a generation where it’s obviously a quality of theirs, but not the thing that needs to be first about their story.”

The story is set in motion when the characters realize that, unlike their hyper-studious selves, other students admitted to top universities partied throughout high school. As they shuffle from grad party to grad party, they start to reassess their judgment of their classmates.

“It’s natural: High school is war, the stakes are very high and it becomes challenging not to put people into categories, because you’re doing it to feel safe,” Wilde said. “When it becomes ‘Lord of the Flies’ and you’re trying really hard to protect yourself emotionally and survive in an intense environment … we’re all guilty of judging people. But if we’re categorizing others, then we’re doing it to ourselves. Everyone is complicated, everyone is dealing with pain and challenges of their own, and it’s probably not about you.”

Feldstein and Dever found their first starring roles to be a welcome challenge after previously being cast in several supporting roles. The two quickly developed a strong bond.

“There was so much trust and love there that we layered Molly [Feldstein’s character] and Amy upon this foundation we’d created,” Feldstein said. “I had been used to playing much more supporting characters where they’re the joke, and then they leave and don’t continue on in the story, so I was very intimidated to be on this two-person journey where the two of us are the story and are taking the story forward.”

The two lived together in preparation for the film, an experience which Dever said helped create their on-screen friendship.

“You can’t fake chemistry, and it was very easy to love Beanie,” Dever said. “It was all about doing normal, real-life things. It was all about me and Beanie having breakfast together in the morning, and driving to get gas together, and listening to the Kacey Musgraves album.”

Feldstein, perhaps best known for her supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” was delighted to step into a lead role.

“Kaitlyn and I have been so lucky in so many films as supporting characters with leading actors that we so respect,” Feldstein said. “I remember being the very new person on ‘Lady Bird’ and looking to Saoirse [Ronan]’s incredible energy and generosity of spirit and being like, ‘I get to be her on this film,’ in that we help to set the tone in that way. How lucky am I to learn from who I’ve gotten to work with and continue that generosity?”