- Booksmart is the comedy of the summer.
- Marisa Tomei is a goddess.
- Moby swears he dated Natalie Portman, OK?!
- Ciara has the song of the summer.
- Jennifer Garner has some advice.
- Toy Story 4 has some surprises.
Booksmart Is So Much Damn Fun
I can’t remember a time when I had as much fun watching a movie in a theater as when I first screened Booksmart. (OK, it was Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, obviously—I burst into tears of joy when “Dancing Queen” started playing—but bear with me for the sake of hyperbole.)
The first five minutes alone contain so many laugh-out-loud moments, I cackled like a banshee sucking on a weed lollipop. (In the shrewdest bit of marketing in a long time, they just went ahead and put those first five minutes up on YouTube.) The movie never lets up, either. The pace of comedic set pieces is so fantastically relentless that the laughter-induced euphoria does produce something of a high.
But Booksmart amounts to far more than that riotous sequences involving hapless carjackings, porn bluetooth mishaps, and accidental psychedelic trips. It taps into the torment and bliss of being a teenager—of graduating high school, of having a best friend—better than any movie in the genre has in a decade. When it comes to female best friends, including a queer character (!), that superlative can even go one further: better than any high school movie ever.
It’s specific to the experience and pressures of being a teen on the cusp of adulthood today, but it’s also timeless. It’s the kind of movie I am so glad the royal babies—my newborn twin nephews!—will have to watch when they’re older. More than that, that young girls will have to watch. It will be the new greatest sleepover movie.
Beanie Feldstein is Molly, her school’s valedictorian, a type-A powerhouse unapologetic about having spent the last four years wearing blinders to her classmates’ teenage shenanigans in pursuit of an Ivy League school and future domination. Her best friend is Kaitlyn Dever’s Amy, who is as formidable as Molly but exceptionally shier.
Their power is in their closeness, where they let loose in goofball bliss, but it’s also their kryptonite. They realize on the last day of school that their classmates are going off to schools nearly as impressive as theirs, only they’ve let themselves have fun, too. And thus the duo embarks on the classic “one last night” mission.
Their friendship is the heart and soul of Booksmart, and first-time director Olivia Wilde takes great care in depicting it with complicated truth. (Molly and Amy get what I refer to as a “Carrie and Miranda fight”—perhaps the most important scene in Sex and the City—that elevates Booksmart to a whole new level of realness.)
The entire cast is aces. Noah Galvin had me gasping for air with every line reading. Billie Lourd delivers one of the great teen comedy weirdos. And Dever is magnificent. But this is a star-is-born moment for Feldstein.
She plays Molly as a proud girl who realizes that the confidence she’s been wielding as a weapon to conquer the world is also an armor she has used to shield herself from experiencing it, and reckons in real-time with the effect that’s had on her life.
Wilde shoots the whole thing in a visual style that just gets that palpable, desperate “let’s make this night count” feeling, equal parts randy and melancholy, raucous and scared. There’s a great soundtrack, too. Guys, go see this movie! It’s so fun, dammit!
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The All in the Family/Jeffersons Special Is Pure Joy
The second Marisa Tomei began singing her verse of the All in the Family theme song, “Those Were the Days,” I was sold. She played Edith Bunker, so indelibly inhabited by Jean Stapleton on the trailblazing sitcom, in Live in Front of a Studio Audience, Wednesday night’s ABC special broadcast featuring classic episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons with Tomei, Woody Harrelson, Jamie Foxx, and Wanda Sykes taking on the iconic lead roles.
The entire night was a hoot, from Jennifer Hudson’s glorious live rendition of “Movin’ On Up” to a surprise appearance by Marla Gibbs that left even her scene partners misty-eyed. But it’s Tomei’s take on Edith that was so perfect and joyous that I can’t stop smiling about it. She nailed that lilting squawk, so endearing and yet so grating, and Edith’s batty, frenzied nature. She radiated through the screen, clearly having the time of her life. We need to recognize how lucky we are that we have Marisa Tomei!
More, the special as a whole was a bonafide success. It’s a weird experiment, thank god! There’s so much on TV that is so fine and forgettable, so why not be weird??? Did you miss it? Go watch it now on Hulu, or watch the rebroadcast on ABC Saturday.
It wasn’t a spoof or a send-up, or ironic in any way. It was a recreation of some of the greatest television there has ever been, treating it like a production of a seminal play, with great characters reinterpreted by major actors, and the product served up for digestion through the lens of a new time. It was live and sometimes a bit messy and choppy. But because of that, it was also invigorating in a way that TV rarely is anymore.
I want more! Do more of these, ABC. Friends or Seinfeld would be a hit! How about Cheers? Facts of Life? I Love Lucy? The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Good Times? Imagining the casting of Golden Girls is so exciting I just broke into a sweat.
Turns Out Moby Is a Real Dick!
Moby, the human adhesive residue from an old CD case that got stuck to your finger while cleaning out your childhood bedroom, is back in the news this week. In his new memoir, he relays an egregiously gross tale about dating Natalie Portman back in 1999 when he was 33 and she was 20. Portman, however, disputed that version of events, saying that, nope, he was just “a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school,” when she was 18, not 20.
Moby, the skidmark on a pair of JNCO jeans that just won’t come out, then doubled down. He went on Instagram insisting that “we did, in fact, date,” evidently unaware that he was, in fact, #MeToo-ing himself, which is a wild accomplishment. He announced this using a photo of himself clutching a young Portman in which he is shirtless and his nipple hairs threaten to coil out of Instagram, through your screen, and suffocate us all. Hey! Moby sucks!
Justice For Ciara
Why have we failed Ciara? The singer has been consistently releasing scorching bops and brilliant R&B records, backing all of it up with some of the best live performances in the game, and yet still her music struggles to chart and surge up playlists with the same popularity as her breakout hits, like “1, 2 Step” 15 years ago.
That’s why it needs to be said that, in my house, “Thinkin Bout You” is the song of the summer. It is bouncy and flirty, with a chorus that beats in time to that familiar palpitating heartbeat you have when you’re harboring a crush. The music video calls back to Julia Roberts’ bathtub scene from Pretty Woman, in which she sings along to Prince’s “Kiss,” which couldn’t be more appropriate because the gleeful fun and carefree silliness of that scene is exactly the feeling of Ciara’s song.
Listen up, all you fly fellas. Do right by Ciara!
Jennifer Garner Has Some Advice
Spend enough time with me and you will inevitably hear me shrieking about how Jennifer Garner is the best celebrity we have. It’s not even a close race!!! Imagine the amount of vindication I feel after watching her phenomenal commencement address this week at Denison University, her alma mater from which she graduated 25 years ago. (“That’s one Ariana Grande!”)
Watch the whole thing (it starts here at 1:03:00) for her considered and meaningful words about the importance of students owning their legacies and the barriers that prevent the breaking of the cycle of poverty. Or, if you want to just be entertained, here are some contextless words of advice from her delightful speech.
“Don’t smoke and don’t vape. We know, vaping smells like maple syrup or pineapple or cotton candy, whatever it is. But now that you’re going to be adulting, it’s not cute—just don’t do it.”
“I’m going to say this because everyone says it, but you won’t listen because nobody does: Nothing looks better in your 50s than sunscreen in your 20s.”
“When it comes to Halloween costumes, go funny over sexy. Why would you dress like a flirty nurse when you could be a mailbox?”
“Mixed signals are not mixed signals. They’re a no.”
Toy Story 4 Is Going in an Interesting Direction
Here is a very important screengrab from the latest trailer for Toy Story 4.
Happy Memorial Day!
What to See This Week:
The Hot Zone: In this newsletter, we support Julianna Margulies.
Animal Kingdom: This TNT drama has been quietly intense, insane, horny, and surprisingly gay for three seasons already. Let’s make some more noise about season four.
Vida: This show is a vibrant joy.
What to Skip This Week:
Aladdin: It’s shockingly not terrible! But also not, like, good. You’ll love it in three months on an airplane.
What/If: A so-so Netflix series cruelly stealing from the excitement for the real Renee Zellweger comeback in Judy.
Songland: There hasn’t been a bankable winner of a singing competition in a decade and I have no idea why networks keep trying.