Welcome back! I hope the summer break was a perfect balance of adventure and relaxation! Ready to work hard, as well as continuing to look after yourself? Get those A’s, but get some rest too!
The theme of this week’s article, and my personal goal for the year, is balance. This ties in to my film recommendation this week – Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde. This is a teenage, feminist, coming-of-age film about two best friends who have focused so intensely on their studies during high school that they suddenly realise, as the academic requirements are wrapped up, that they have missed out on a range of quintessential high school experiences. Dedicated study and academic excellence are wonderful goals but it is also important to find a healthy balance and to make time for fun activities and honing social skills.
The two main protagonists, Molly and Amy, focus exclusively on high achievement with the single minded goal of getting into excellent colleges. They segregate themselves from the rest of their year group and create a ‘community of two’ which gives them a sense of identity, and establishes a degree of “us” versus “them”. This perhaps helps them to foster a certain self-esteem. Instead of partying or expanding their social group, which is entirely out of their comfort zone, they work hard, and can feel good about doing what they believe to be the “right thing”. They then discover that the students who had been balancing social events with their academic requirements had also been accepted to the high-ranking colleges. This creates a somewhat desperate need to experience what they have missed and they overcompensate for their lack of socialisation during high school by trying to make up for it in one night. This is the basis of the film, and leads to some amazingly quirky and humorous scenes such as a drug-induced stop-animation hallucination. Ultimately, it is a story of exploring the social realms outside of one’s immediate comfort zone, and finding a balance between responsibilities and personal well-being and satisfaction. The final line of Molly’s valedictorian speech “And I may not have before, but, I see you now, and you’re all… pretty great” is a simple culminating concept that expresses their discovery: a celebration of diversity and balance.
The movie subtly touches on feminism and sexuality without it being the foundation of the film. Amy’s sexuality is not a major plot-point of the film, and there is no crucial challenge for her to overcome, such as coming out. The challenge for Amy is simply, how to “ace” losing her virginity. On brand for the duo, they research this to ensure success. This means watching lesbian porn in the backseat of an Uber. I really appreciate the decision to have the lesbian main character comfortably ‘out’ with no ensuing drama. LGBTQ+ themes in films are often scripted as obstacles to overcome, and Booksmart portrays Amy’s sexuality nonchalantly as an unremarkable fact.
Directed by actress and self-proclaimed feminist Olivia Wilde, and written by Katie Silberman, Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, and Sarah Haskins, this largely female cast and crew are likely to be where the feminist themes of the film originate. Olivia Wilde’s mission is to reject traditional messages of gender roles and, in this movie, we have a teen comedy for smart feminists. As a team, Wilde and the writers create relatable and fun scenes for women and fellow feminists to enjoy. I particularly appreciate the ‘name-dropping’ of feminist icons, such as Malala as the Amy and Molly’s code word for unconditional support. The film portrays a meaningful friendship between strong women with quick wit, and clear morals. Although this film is set at the culmination of high school, the core themes remain relevant during university and beyond.
I have paired this movie with the old stand-by comfort food with a twist – or perhaps with balance. This delicious vegan Macaroni and Cheese recipe is made with a healthy and insanely tasty sauce. This meal can serve as a yummy treat as you settle back into uni life, and attempt to balance responsibilities, socialisation, and self-care. Take a well-deserved break from your readings to enjoy this feel-good film with this nutritious and delicious meal. NOTE: Ingredients below in a small column on the side?