It seems like as long as there are teens, there will always be movies about them that hope to channel the angst and anxiety about fitting in, looking cool or attracting that hot peer in their science class they’re prone to. The teen-comedy genre has its tropes neatly delineated for others to follow, but Laura Terruso’s silly and surprising Good Girls Get High is a refreshing entry that pivots away from many of those conventions while still having a good time.
Much of the film’s success is attributed to main characters Sam and Danielle, whose wide-eyed ascent into reefer madness is both hilarious and unpredictable. It begins with valedictorian Sam (Abby Quinn) recording a video message to Harvard University that explains why she turned down an offer to enroll for the fall despite getting accepted, as well as why she regrets that decision and is now begging to be let in. Her narration carries over into the film, in which she dishes on herself and her best friend, Danielle (Stefanie Scott), and their world. The two besties are as nerdy as they come: They’re both valedictorians of their graduating class and don’t have much of a social life beyond hanging out every Friday night with their pizza-delivery friend, Ken (Miles McKenna), and watching documentaries. Sam is the award-winning science student, while Danielle leads the debate team and poetry club.
Sam also describes her father (Matt Besser) and his ice-cream store, which is in dire straits, thanks to the trendy guy who opens up shop next door and serves scoops in a unicorn costume. It’s because of their financial instability that Sam decides to forgo her Harvard dreams, and her decision knocks Danielle off the school’s waitlist and into acceptance—much to Sam’s chagrin, as she was hoping to attend state college with her best friend. We’re also introduced to a slew of side characters, such as the perfect school couple: Ashanti (Chanté Adams) is an Instagram influencer, while Jeremy (Booboo Stewart), who is also Danielle’s crush, is an avant-garde performance artist whose medium is social media and crafting clever commentaries on the digital world and society (this is demonstrated later by his spraypainting “CAPITALISM” on the side of his Hummer—I’m suffocating on irony here).
Sam and Danielle, for the most part, seem utterly comfortable within their social standing at school (save for the tremendously clichéd frat-boy-type bullies who gloat whenever they knock the girls’ books out of their hands) until they open the yearbook and see they were voted “Biggest Good Girls.” Their egos shaken, the two are determined to live out their wild, bad-girl sides to break out of that title before they become branded with it for life. Luckily—and by some bizarre, cosmic coincidence—Sam discovers a joint hidden in her dad’s laundry, which becomes her and Danielle’s gateway into the strangest sojourn of their young lives.
Also notable are turns by Danny Pudi as Mr. D, Sam’s science teacher, whom she has a crush on (and fantasizes about in his underwear floating among clouds), and Lauren Lapkus as a pregnant cop, who has a meaningful role as an unexpected ally.
Good Girls Get High isn’t nearly as lewd as Superbad, as uplifting as Booksmart or as sexy as the Aubrey Plaza-starring The To Do List, but Terruso (and co-screenwriter Jennifer Nashorn Blankenship) make sure to carefully steer clear of including too many clichéd plot devices and instead focus on the freewheeling experience of two best friends getting high for the first time. The co-writers prioritize making Sam and Danielle strong individuals in their own right with a solid friendship, while not making nearly every other character a tired archetype. Quinn and Scott both seem extremely game for performing some of the most humiliating scenes, so the ribald fun and humor stand out, and as a result, their friendship comes off as natural and genuine.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t add to the list of stereotypes employed by countless old-school “getting high” movies (no Alice B. Toklas brownie freakouts here). Good Girls Get High is modern enough for the current crop of teenagers to relate to, while its message of friendship secures its longevity for generations to follow.
Good Girls Get High was directed by Laura Terruso; written by Terruso and Jennifer Nashorn Blankenship; and stars Abby Quinn and Stefanie Scott.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.