Cliché or Replay?
You’ve probably heard or seen around the internet the names of Flynn, Peter Kavinsky, or Noah Centineo this summer, and if you haven’t, you clearly didn’t spend much time online over your break. (Good for you.) Netflix released three romantic comedies to its audience of over 100 million subscribers, the first arriving in May and the latest just a few weeks ago. Filled with crushes, heartbreak, drama, and a healthy dash of aww-inducing moments, these new rom-coms made us squeal with excitement and realize how drastically this genre has changed over the years—or not, in some cases. A word of caution before reading: some spoilers lie ahead.
THE KISSING BOOTH
Overdone, cheesy, predictable and surprisingly sexist, The Kissing Booth, an overdone movie hidden behind a creative name, really isn’t worth the watch. Released on May 11, Netflix’s teen-targeted rom-com drew both love and hate from viewers.
As someone who loves a good rom-com but knows that they usually aren’t that spectacular, I wasn’t expecting much—just a story based off of the usual stereotype of a unnoticed girl pining for the guy who she can’t have either because he doesn’t notice her, or because she isn’t allowed to date him. I was pretty much right.
So what’s the premise? Elle Evans (Joey King) has been best friends with Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney) since birth. Their friendship has endured because of an agreed-upon set of ironclad rules: like not dating Lee’s handsome older brother Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi), a bad boy who wears a leather jacket everywhere in Los Angeles, rides a motorcycle, and gets into fights with other students
Admittedly, I enjoyed it at first. I found the kissing booth to be a slightly creative (although how the physical booth ever got past school administration approval confuses me) addition to the story. What I disliked was the blatant sexism.
In the long run, a movie should have memorable characters. Elle Evans, while a acceptable character, isn’t great, just generic, leaving me trying to recollect any memorable moments, less than a month after watching the film.
TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE
Cliché, but produced well, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (based off the popular YA novel of the same name by Jenny Han) brought the audience a touching, creative, heartwarming story leaving many on the internet wanting a Peter Kavinsky of their very own. I was excited for this movie to come out as soon as the trailer was posted in July. The story felt new and innovative, as it centers around secret love letters being unexpectedly mailed and a resulting fake relationship. The characters were diverse, adult topics were handled with maturity, the LGBT character wasn’t played as a stereotype, and almost all the main characters have more depth and story to them beyond a name and face.
In the past decade or so, Hollywood has come under fire for not casting Asian actors for Asian roles—like when Scarlett Johansson played the role of Japanese character Motoko Kusanagi in a remake of Ghost in the Shell—so this movie made a lot people happy.
Because of the depth that was put into other characters as well, I could also understand the feelings of other characters. Having a younger sibling myself, I could relate with both Lara Jean and Kitty, but I could also see Peter Kavinsky’s (played by Noah Centineo) side. The personal growth that these characters experience throughout the movie made me root for them. As someone who is quite introverted and lives in her own fantasies, I found myself excited for Lara Jean, her personal success in becoming a more confident person a hopeful thought for both me and other reserved teenagers.
SIERRA BURGESS IS A LOSER
Despite a promising trailer (notwithstanding revealing almost the entire story within two minutes), Sierra Burgess is a Loser disappointed in so many ways. The storyline based off of the play Cyrano de Bergerac seemed interesting at first: a popular boy by the name of Jamey (Noah Centineo) mistakenly texts Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser, known for her portrayal of “Barb” on another Netflix Original, Stranger Things), a studious and unpopular plain teenageer, mistaking her number for that of the pretty cheerleader, Veronica (Kristine Froseth). Instead of revealing her identity, Sierra continues their texting, leading Jamey on in behavior known as catfishing.
While I applaud the casting and the movie’s attempts to address toxic insecurities girls these girls may face in high school, having Sierra use these self-doubts as an excuse for her bad behaviour is disgusting. With the #MeToo movement still fresh, Sierra using her insecurities to justify kissing Jamey while he believes her to be someone else feels icky.
The homophobic and transphobic jokes also turned me off this film. At one point, Sierra fakes being deaf in front of Jamey and his brother to avoid revealing her identity. Movies these days should aim to avoid these types of jokes and offensive comments. I’m not the only one who feels this way: the scene where Sierra pretends to be deaf generated significant backlash. Actor, model and deaf activist Nyle DiMarco lashed out at Netflix, saying on Twitter, “When I learned [about my friend’s deaf son being in the movie], I was elated.
But there are some parts that I enjoyed and would love to see more of in other films. Sierra Burgess is a Loser stepped away from typical chick-flick casting tropes by hiring a larger actress whose character doesn’t seem to let any of the insults thrown at her to diminish her personality, even though she struggles with her own lack of confidence.
While I appreciate aspects of Sierra’s character, like her confidence and personality, the offensive joking and self-justifying she engages in throughout the movie without any repercussions makes Sierra Burgess an unlikeable protagonist.
Written by Isabel C.