The Kissing Booth: A review, mostly rant
This Netflix original movie – The Kissing Booth – feels like someone took a bunch of elements and combined the classic narrative tropes from other successful teen flicks such as “Pretty in Pink”, “Never Been Kissed,” “Mean Girls,” “To All The Boys I Have Loved Before,” and “10 Things I Hate About You”, put them in a blender, and then strained out all the factors that made the original movies good but unfortunately, this smoothie sucked.
Director: Vince Marcello
Cast: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney.
In case this “Internationally trending” film passed by you, let me get you up to speed.
Film Synopsis: A high school student finds herself face-to-face with her long-term crush when she signs up to run a kissing booth at the spring carnival.
What actually happens:
Elle is controlled by his “bestie” Lee by a set of rules they made when they were like 6. They keep reminding us about their annoying rules which govern their friendship. One of which is not to date Lee’s relatives. Basically, Lee wants to ‘protect’ Elle from his womanizing bad-boy with anger issues-filled brother – Noah. How are dare is he trying to keep his best friend off fuckboys?
By the way, Noah is super hot, 6’2 with a killer bod. Ah, it makes sense now. That’s all we know about him with zero personality. But, hey who needs that when they have a leather jacket and a motorcycle? The unwanted drama goes on for a while. Surprise, Surprise they end up kissing in a “The Kissing booth” or how else can they bring in the irrelevant title. A series of montage filled with fake laughter, watching the sunset and fake teasing sums up their 4 months of dating. Throw in a couple of problematic relationships, sexist comments, misleading fillers, overused cliches – you just watched The Kissing Booth!
Now, let’s get trashing!
We know it’s based on a Wattpad story and the author was fifteen at the time she wrote it. So, part of me thought that I should cut it some slack. But bear in mind, fully functioning adults adapted this into a movie. Adults who should know how relationships actually work. Let’s get trashing guilt-free!
It’s not cute or funny but sexual harassment!
There are plenty of dumb things about this movie, but it’s hard not to roll your eyes at when Elle gets into a tiny skirt as a lame excuse on the first day of school. She ripped her pants and the backup is in the cleaners. What will you do?
- Wear literally any other pants.
- Tie a sweater around the pants.
- Wear a pant or stockings under the micro-sized skirt.
- It’s the first day, nothing happens. Just stay home.
This film reinforced all the wrong, backward lessons we are trying to move on from. Elle is sexually assaulted by a boy at school – and she is given detention because of her inappropriate dress – her skirt had hitched. What’s worse, neither the principal nor the movie as a whole seems to take the incident seriously. Say whaaaaat?
In fact, the whole thing appears to be played for laughs when Elle tells the principal that she’s upset. The weightage of the situation was downplayed completely which baffles me.
It only gets worse… pt.1
While waiting for the principal, Noah tells Elle “she was asking for it”. Really? That’s practically the slogan for rape culture. Noah then acknowledges girls are not objects to be played with, yet his actions don’t really prove the same.
He then is allowed to stay in class with her and ultimately accepts a date with her assaulter? What is with this girl and be attracted to guys who sexually harass her? Not to mention he’s now a ‘big loveable character’ who is a big side character in the rest of the movie and the next one.
And I really could go on more about all the sexism that happens. But, let’s move on to another problematic issue. It never ends.
Kissing Booth: Stop romanticizing Toxic Relationship!
It portrays having a “bad-boy” boyfriend as some cute romantic thing. There was one point in the movie where Noah literally screams at her to get in the car and he does it in such an aggressive way that it would be hard to say the relationship was healthy.
When Elle had cuts and bruises and Noah was tending to her wounds, Lee walked in on them and his immediate response was, “Did you do that to her?” He was genuinely worried that his brother would actually abuse her! In fact, he wasn’t really jealous; but was genuinely worried for her safety. This shows the huge red flag. Noah is extremely emotionally unstable and he gets into fights with literally anyone who looks at someone the wrong way. His go-to strategy is to punch someone in the face. Aw, cute.
Let’s check our cliché list!
- The cliché that they suddenly have feelings for each other even though they know each other their entire lives.
- She ends up kissing her crush while blindfolded instead of the nerd she was meant to kiss.
- His personal place no one else knew is the tourist spot – “Hollywood sign”.
- She knows how to ride his bike at the end of the movie when she never practiced it.
- Mean Girls trope as the cringe version – OMG girls.
- Cute innocent girl with womanizing bad boy trope. Pure goals!
- Getting into Ivy League schools without studying.
Little sparks of a rainbow amidst the trash:
Throughout the movie, we repeatedly see the ways both Lee and Noah try to control Elle in the name of best friend and boyfriend. If you’re thinking that Lee included the rule because he’s secretly in love with her, he’s not. And that’s probably the only good thing about this movie. They’re best friends since birth with weird rules they still follow. Yay!
Now, let’s get into the unwanted sequel.
The Kissing Booth 2: The Crap Continues.
The Kissing Booth 2 presents a similar dilemma to its nerdy American high schooler lead, as earlier this year’s To All The Boys: PS I Love You—falling for another impossibly hot guy when you already have an unearthly cute guy in your arms.
Set in the magical faraway land of Netflix high school rom-com where one gets the option to choose between two perfect hot males, The Kissing Booth 2 is unable to find a true calling, need, or justification for a sequel.
Did you say Drama? It got it all. It employs every conflict possible. There are jealous girlfriends, annoying best friends, lying boys, a dance competition, cheating, self-doubt, forbidden kiss, and the belief in the existence of soulmates.
It only gets worse… pt.2
With its dreamy colorful filters, school kids in convertibles on a sunny street, and mediocre essays being considered fit for a Harvard acceptance letter when all they do is stuck in drama, there is so much that separates the movie from reality. Here are the days of jealousy, missed calls, ignored texts, and really sad glances out windows are pretty much the movie.
And where all that’s standing between you and a shot at getting into Harvard and Berkeley University is a few Audrey Hepburn quotes, making it sound like placing an order in McDonald’s and a heartfelt essay about where you see yourself in five years where she basically talks about the people she likes and wants to have fun.
Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate a glittery high school fantasy—seriously, I’ve seen all of Riverdale and Gossip Girl.
Bad and lazy writing, way too many filler scenes, overuse of Elle’s narration, forced LGBT+ representation for brownie points, and all the tired cliches that don’t even fit anymore. As much as I sound like a grumpy old man, I’m a teenager and I know!
It’s 2020. Young teens need better examples of how to treat each other in healthy and better ways. It was disappointing to see the talented Joey King settle for a story like this.