About two-thirds of the way through- and once the film's teenage friends played wonderfully by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever finally make it to the graduation party they so desperately want to attend- "Booksmart" finds its footing and attains something quite terrific. The film's patchwork assortment of outrageous characters and high school crudeness coalesces into an achingly honest and masterful examination about the crushing facade of teenage life and its very thin margins of identity/acceptance. First time actor-turned-director Olivia Wilde balances the pieces together brilliantly, manifesting all the strengths of her film in one long shot that turns a shattering underwater discovery into an equally shattering composition of two young women trying to compose themselves in the uncertainties of adulthood. Just a great film all around.
While the idea of an alternate history story of a young Superman-type kid falling to Earth and being raised by Midwestern farming parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) sounds novel, David Yarovesky's "Brightburn" falters in execution. Relying on one too many horror tropes and scare beats, this is a film that telescopes pretty much every plot twist and drains the life out of (already) cardboard characters.
Although I wasn't quite prepared for the straight musical narrative Dexter Fletcher unspools in telling the meteoric rise and drug-addled plateau of rock 'n' roll icon Elton John, the fluid camera work and choreography are the best things about the effort. It's when people begin having conversations that the film's weakness becomes glaring. Taron Egerton portrays John with swagger and verve, but its a performance that still comes off as pantomime rather than true character excavation.