There’s a lot of positive buzz about Booksmart, the coming of age movie which marks Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut. It has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences love it too. Some reports are focusing on its poor performance at the box office, but it didn’t get much promotion by its distributor and it wasn’t a bug budget film. I haven’t seen it in theaters yet but I plan to. The Guardian has an interview with Olivia which I found interesting and wanted to talk about. I especially liked what she said about how they’re not making the same kind of movies for teens that we had growing up. (Although she’s a decade younger than me.)
You’ve said you want Booksmart to be a generational anthem. What does that mean in 2019?
Well, the greatest generational anthems in my film-watching experience, specifically The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, were a real celebration of the exciting independence of youth. There’s something punk rock about it: “We’re in charge, our voices matter and we know more than the grown-ups.” And that represents this young generation to me now. They’re like: “You’ve put us in a fucked-up political situation, the Earth is dying, there are maniacs in power, you’ve created this binary way of thinking about gender and sexuality, which we don’t accept. We’d actually like to shift this paradigm – you’re done!”
There were a lot of high-school comedies in the 1980s and 90s, but fewer recently. Why did they stop getting made?
I think they became more patronising: it became about poking fun at the ineptitude of young boys in terms of sexuality. Think of American Pie: there’s a lot of truly funny performances, but it seemed to lose touch with the deeply emotional crises that you see in those John Hughes movies. Being young is the most painful and the most hilarious experience.
Your mother ran (unsuccessfully) for Congress. What was it like?
I’ve been interested in politics for a long time. I worked very hard for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but local politics, congressional races are unique. I’ve seen my mom do incredible things: she’s worked in war zones as a journalist, she’s spoken truth to power in different ways, she’s also just my kick-ass mom, but seeing her in this position was unbelievable. The energy it takes to run for office, I could never do it. It’s so vulnerable and it’s so exhausting because the campaign finance system in electoral politics is so corrupt that, in order to stay afloat as a candidate, you are constantly raising money. It’s really unfortunate, but there are bright spots on the horizon – you see people such as AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] who no one thought had a chance.
Who would you like to see as the Democratic nominee for 2020?
I don’t know yet. We have to keep our eye on Congress as well as the presidential election; we have to remember there are so many seats we have to maintain. If we lose Congress, we are so fucked! But there are so many Democratic candidates at this point that now we need to start debating and see who can survive. But I really like Elizabeth Warren.
I didn’t get to vote for Olivia Wilde’s mom but I have friends in her district who did and expected her to win. Olivia and her fiance Jason Sudeikis campaigned for her and it must have been tough to see her lose. It definitely was for her potential constituents. As for her thoughts on young adult movies, while I loved the John Hughes films growing up, I cringe when I rewatch them. They are problematic, they are very male-centric and they do not hold up at all. I have higher hopes for Booksmart and given the reviews I think they’ll be met. I also think we’ll be seeing more of Wilde as a director, which I look forward to.
Photos credit: WENN and Backgrid