Music in Film: Evaluating the Party Scene in Booksmart

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By Iliana Ramirez
Music Journalist

Booksmart follows two characters, Amy, played by Kaitlyn Dever, and Molly, played by Beanie Fieldstein, on the night before their high school graduation. As the two girls worked extremely hard for four years to get into their dream colleges, they come to the realization that they missed out on the fun and spontaneous moments in which their peers had. The two try to cram all of this missed time into one long night, adventure by adventure.

I have seen the film three times now. If that doesn’t explain how much I love the film, then I’m not sure what does. I first saw Booksmart at SXSW in March and was in awe of the whole film. Just like many other films, the soundtrack stuck with me. Each time I saw the film, I noticed how each song was so nicely curated to fit each scene. Although the whole film exemplifies a great soundtrack, the final party scene stuck out to me the most. This final scene is essentially what most of the film leads up to.

“Look at these Hoes” by Santigold

The final party scene begins when Amy and Molly walk into the party. As the doors open, the camera follows behind the girls to Santigold’s “Look at These Hoes”. Teenagers fill the living room of a large mansion and the girls look as if they are two kids in a candy store. Their classmates greet them, explaining to them how they wish they would have come to all of the past parties. As director, Olivia Wilde had a large part in choosing the music for the film. She explains that the drum beats in the beginning of the song are so “anticipatory, exciting, and promising”. The entire scene contains a rollercoaster of emotions, which makes this Santigold song the perfect song to kick things off.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morisette

What’s a party without some karaoke? Mid way through the party, Amy’s crush, Ryan, convinces her to do karaoke. I think this scene is such a turning point for Amy’s character. Throughout the rest of the film, audiences see Amy as kind of reserved and afraid to break out of her shell. But, this all changes when Alanis Morisette’s classic, “You Oughta Know” blasts through the speakers of the theater room.

Audiences see another side of Amy. As the golden light from the projector shines on her face, you can see the intensity and spark in her eyes that she had been waiting to show to her peers all throughout high school. I was so glad to hear Alanis Morisette in this film because she is such a pioneer for women in the music industry. As the film is a pure celebration for female friendship, this song fit just right in the film’s agenda.

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius

Right after Amy faces her peers with karaoke, “Slip Away” from Perfume Genius’ 2017 album No Shape begins as Amy and Ryan head outside to the pool. The two begin undressing and jump in. The camera goes underwater, and Amy is seen swimming to find Ryan. The first half of the song builds up to dramatic drumming. As the drumming in the song intensifies, Amy’s facial expressions begin to change; she looks confused. As she comes up for breath, she sees Ryan and Nick (Molly’s crush) holding each other and kissing. The dramatic pianos in the song make the audience feel just as devastated as Amy is when she sees the two together.

“Amy Molly Fight” by Dan the Automater

Right after seeing her crush kiss someone else, Amy is devastated. She quickly exits the pool, puts her clothes back on and rushes back into the house to find Molly. She finds Molly socializing with everyone, enjoying the night that she awaited during the entirety of her high school career. With a shaky voice and tears in her eyes, she proceeds to tell Molly that she wants to leave. Molly refuses and the two begin to argue. This song is a little different from the rest of the songs here as it was produced and made specifically for the film by Dan the Automater. Because the song was made for the film, the artist was able it evokes the intense emotion and tension that was created from the fight.

“Oh Baby” by LCD Soundsystem

With the night slowly coming to an end, Molly’s mood is turned completely upside down after getting into a fight with Amy. She leaves the party and walks home on the streets of LA. As she is walking home, the distinctive synth of LCD Soundsystem begins. The song “Oh Baby” off of the band’s 2017 album plays and one of her classmates pulls up on the road next to her, offering to give her a ride. This scene is such a turning point for Molly’s character because it’s the first time in the film that you see Molly by herself, without Amy by her side. Additionally it shows her genuinely interacting with her peers.

For most of the film, she was highly critical of them because she didn’t believe they had the potential to get into ivy league schools. This scene was essentially when everything comes into perspective for Molly. LCD Soundsystem is a band that means so much to so many people, including director Wilde. I found it interesting how she decided to include this song during a time of self-discovery for Molly. 

Although Booksmart is still a fairly new film, it is already a classic in my eyes. If you haven’t already seen this film, I highly recommend giving it a watch. I recommend it not only for the soundtrack but for the originality of the characters, storyline, and humor. Although the last moments of the film contain a large array of music, the rest of the soundtrack incorporates music from artists of the past, present and artists who are shaping the future of music.

Image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

Written by: Piper Blake

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