I recently went and saw the movie Booksmart and I could not possibly more highly recommend it. It’s actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut and it stars Kaitlyn Dever as Amy and Beanie Feldstein (yes, like from Lady Bird!) as Molly.
Amy and Molly are best, tight-as-could-be, parents-mistake-them-for-lesbian-lovers (Amy is actually gay, Molly isn’t) kind of friends, and the story takes place over the last day and night of school. Molly is valedictorian of her high school class and Amy is salutatorian, so they both worked very hard in school, to the detriment of any non school related activities.
The plot, while intricate and hilarious, is less of my focus here, but I’ll briefly summarize it. Molly is horrified to, on her last day, find out that a lot of the party kids are also going to Ivy League schools (she’s attending Yale). They did so without sacrificing their social life, like Molly and Amy (who’s attending Columbia) did. So Molly decides that she wants to attend an end of year banger of a party at some kid’s house, with Amy. The rest of the night is filled with shenanigans as they run around town trying to find the party. We see a (almost?) lesbian sex scene, we see (hear, rather) the girls seeing pornography in front of their principal, we witness some beautifully shot scenes, like an underwater pool sequence that’s absolutely breathtaking (get it?). Finally, the girls have a big fight and reconciliation wherein they learn that everyone is great and nuanced in their own way and that the girls are a great pair for their differences. Did I mention that the movie is chock full of hilarity?
Now that you’re caught up, let’s get into why I love this movie SO MUCH.
I’m someone who is almost always either in a relationship or mourning a breakup. I’m also bisexual but have only ever dated men, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to change. I’ve always been surrounded by friends, but when I’m in a relationship I get tunnel vision and only focus on a partner. This has led to a vast under appreciation of female friendships.
Today, some of my most important relationships are my female friendships. There is so much that a boyfriend couldn’t possibly relate to in the same way as my female friends. My best friends have seen me through a roller coaster of drama and trauma, and been there for me in ways that I can’t say of many boyfriends (sorry!).
When I went into the hospital over the summer, partially as a result of the trauma that a deranged (I don’t use that term lightly) boy put me through, my girlfriends were there for me. The dear Katie Suss, who writes for this blog too, sent me a coloring book of animals and some coloring pencils. I was supposedly still dating the boy at the time- he was abusive during the relationship- and he told me that he couldn’t even make it to visit, nor could he write a letter. I was absolutely shattered when he told me that. A sham such as it was, my female friends were the ones who were there for me.
Today, my female friends are some of the smartest people I know. My best friend of many years is utterly brilliant and I could listen to her talk about absolutely anything for hours on end. She always has marvelous advice for me and I know I could talk about anything with her.
Not to call out Katie too specifically, but Katie Suss is also one of my best friends and there is nothing I can’t say to her. I’ve never once had to walk on eggshells around her. I know she understands me inside and out and everything I have to say will be validated and listened to by her.
In past relationships with boys, I’ve never been able to say the same as I just did about those friendships.
Yet- and this is what this article is really about- how often do you see this POWER portrayed in the media?
My family was watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest the same night as I watched this movie, and what a stark contrast! In One Flew, the sympathetic characters all hate the villainous women of the story, who are overbearing, controlling, toxic, and weaponize their womanhood. Of course, this is a garbage (I wish garbageous was a word…) sexist trope that is weaponized against women to belittle their needs and desires. Sure, the movie is old. But it’s not alone. Many movies of its age are like that, and we have only come but so far.
Think back to the movies you’ve watched recently. How many of them featured leading women? Of those, how many of those women were heroes of the story? Of those, how many women exhibited more than two personality traits? Of those, how many had a female friend? Of those, how many were portrayed as catty and competitive, versus loving?
I’m guessing you’re at a loss. I am. Except for Booksmart.
Reality is chock full of women loving women. Women are societally reared to caretake, and while that’s both sometimes a blessing and often a great curse, it creates some beautiful dynamics when combined. This is perhaps best exemplified by the scenes in which Molly and Amy saw each other in the outfits each had just put on. They’d both launch into long odes to the other, saying things like “my eyes are burning with your beauty!” and “how dare you do this perfection to me!” These speeches would last for minutes at a time.
What amazing, unconditional support. They support each other’s outfits, but they also support each other’s romantic lives, sex lives, family lives (starring Lisa Kudrow and Jason Sudeikis), academic lives, and social lives, in all their forms and complications.
Previously, and now still, such supportive relationships, especially between women, especially non-fetishized and platonic, have been stereotyped as so unfunny, so unsexy, so uncool and plain, that they haven’t been translated onto the big screen. We’ve seen it before, recently only. Lady Bird actually comes to mind, as does Dumplin’. These are exceptions. Let’s make them the rule!
Female friendships are sexy! Lesbian relationships are sexy! Female friendships are complex. Lesbian relationships are complex. They’re also both soft, messy, weird, cool, and everything in between. What’s the point of a media, of entertainment, if we don’t use it to highlight the sexy, the complex, the weird, cool, soft?
Let’s start rewarding those who popularize the beauty of female relationships. Go see Booksmart.