You only get one directorial debut, and Olivia Wilde wasn’t about to overthink hers. “Sometimes when people are directing their first film, it becomes this torturous process of proving oneself completely,” Wilde says. “I just went with: What’s the movie that made me want to make movies?” The answer, according to Wilde, involved a bunch of classic high school films, such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “I wanted to reach back into the inspiration that made me want to be in this business in the first place,” Wilde says.
All of those influences played a part in Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, a teen comedy that stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as high school besties Molly and Amy. As two designated “smart girls,” Molly and Amy have worked hard to get into great colleges. And yet, with only one day left until graduation, they realize that they never took the time to let loose and attend a party (or two). And so they do everything they can to rectify that situation … in one night.
The film is full of references, from Molly’s Clueless-esque outfit to the opening shot of Molly meditating, which Wilde says was her “ode to Birdman.” But when it comes to influences, Wilde was inspired by more than those classic high school films. “Big Lebowski‘s a big one for me,” Wilde says. “I love how the Coen’s have proven that comedies can be stylish and I love how many tonal risks and leaps they always take, but particularly in Lebowski because it is an odyssey told in a short period of time in one city, similar to Booksmart. But they took the opportunity to show several different environments and the performances are all different levels of tone. I was so inspired by how you can kind of go all over the map because the Dude and his mission are so grounded.”
Wilde gathered a similar sentiment from The Blues Brothers. “It’s another kind of odyssey told in a short period of time with two people who are very different but of course partners in crime,” Wilde says. “And again, it takes tonal risks. I mean, a dance number in the middle of the street with Aretha Franklin! But there’s also just such heart in it and it always comes back to that grounded mission: They’re going to get that money to save the convent. They’re there to help the nuns. But on the way to doing that, they can go on all these adventures.”
In honor of a few of the film’s inspirations, Booksmart has released digital posters in the vein of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Clueless. EW can exclusively debut the posters below.
Booksmart hits theaters Friday, May 24.