September 10, 2018

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)

Lana Condor, Noah Centino

If you haven't heard about this movie, you must be living under a rock. I don't say this to be rude--it's simply a fact. Likely due to radiating excitement over the release of Crazy Rich Asians, Asian-American awareness sent this teen rom-com skyrocketing into the public consciousness with a very sweet, very PG-13 story about a girl whose secret love letters get mailed to the boys she wrote them to and must deal with the very awkward consequences.

A few things, for the unaware:

1. It's actually a book adaptation.
2. The books are a trilogy. Expect more movies after the smashing success of this first one.
3. Lana Condor is so cute I want to eat her face off.

Okay, #3 is a personal opinion. But I think the reason the movie is so popular is because of the film's two stars, Lana Condor and Noah Centino. They are impossibly cute and have amazing chemistry--a must in rom-coms and is surprisingly lacking when directors rely on big names for casting. Seriously, the more I read about these two the more I am shocked they are not a couple in real life. Luckily, I am not a teenage girl so I understand how acting works and can still like the movie without it paralleling real life.

That being said, I have a couple of minor qualms with the movie.

1. I wish it hadn't de-emphasized the divide Lara Jeans feels about being half-Asian. It's a solid portion of the book and the reason none of the love interests are Asian boys (do you hear that, Internet? The casting directors didn't do it to be racist!). A lot is being made about the little nods to her Korean heritage, but I wish it had been a little more front and center because I am selfish and I want everything to be all Asian, all the time right now.

2. There is some revisionist history about how the letters actually get out. Or rather, why. I did not like Kitty in the book. She is the Little Women's Amy of the Song sisters. To write her redemption in from the beginning displeased me.

3. Lara Jean's "showdown" with Gen in the bathroom is shallow at best. The movie sort of strips out Gen's real motivation for her feud with Lara Jean and leaves the whole thing feeling really petty and manufactured, when (not to sound like a broken record) the book gives it a lot more nuance and believability.

4. They did Josh dirty. He all but disappears for half the movie, which removes the awkward love triangle aspect that sets everything up in the first place. It's unfortunate.

5. Everyone is swooning over Noah Centino, but he husky whispers, Nicholas Cage-style, a little too much for my taste. And he looks like a long-lost Lawrence brother.

6. I wish they'd shown the letter to Peter. It's hilarious.

But other than those six things? LOVE. I love the awkwardness of Lara Jean and the ridiculous faces Lana Condor makes. (Seriously. I want to eat her face off. Forget Noah Centino. I think I'm in love with Lana Condor.) I love that Aiden from Sex and the City is the dad (shut up with your "actually his name is John Corbett. He will always be Aidan.) I love that none of the sisters look like each other, showcasing that yes, mixed kids often don't actually look anything like each other. And I love Lara Jean's outfits. Sure, it's a minor thing, but the whole set design and her clothing and everything just makes me happy. It's a happy movie that makes you happy to watch it. And that is the best thing you can get from a rom-com.

Final word: The best teenage rom-com in decades. I've already watched it three times.

P.S. Bitch better get her scrunchie back in the sequel.

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