As previously established, I love a good romantic comedy. There are times when I will even enjoy a BAD romantic comedy, but nowadays with my eyeball time being more and more precious, I tend to find myself only devoting it to things that are either proven to be good, or that are 100% in my wheelhouse. Lucky for me, in their bid to restart the genre, Netflix seems to be single-handedly giving the world enjoyable, dare I say decent-to-good romantic comedies. And while Set it Up focused on adults in their mid-20s, they’ve also addressed that prime romantic comedy age range of teenagers with an adaptation of the YA book “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han.
I feel like Hollywood is only just recently realizing what a rich source of stories the YA genre can be. Many of the big hits in recent years have been adaptations of these books, and I’m so glad. Too often YA books get looked down on for being written for “kids”, but in truth, the “kids” that read them are at the same reading level as most adults, and so they aren’t really and truly dumbed down. It’s just that the focus tends to be on the stories of people under the age of 18 and often the lives of girls, and that’s what gets dismissed without though. And beyond being the stories of young women, they are often more diverse stories with characters of ethnic and racial backgrounds that are more representative of the world we live in than the “literary” novels which all seem to be trapped in a white-washed bubble.
Disclaimer: I’ve never read the book this movie was based on, so I don’t know how closely it hews to the book. But I don’t really care that much, because I thoroughly enjoyed the movie for what it was. I can see how it would make a good novel, given the opportunity to delve even more deeply into the relationships. But anyways.
This is the story of Lara Jean, who has always been to shy to admit her crushes, so instead she writes a letter to the object of her affection, and tucks that letter away, never to be sent. She has two sisters to whom she is extremely close, and her older sister is leaving for college, and dumps her high school boyfriend – one of the boys that Lara Jean crushed on and is STILL crushing on. Through plot machinations, the letters get sent out, Lara Jean starts fake-dating one of the boys (Peter) in order to avoid having to talk to her sister’s ex-boyfriend (Josh). Emotional hijinks ensue. It all sounds more confusing than it actually is, and it’s handled very smoothly in the movie.
The movie is truly charming. Lara Jean is played beautifully by Lana Condor, who just emotes all the feelings of being an embarassed and shy teenager. I felt like Lara Jean could have been my experience up until the moment of the letters getting out. The relationship between Lara Jean and her sisters is so close and very believeable, you can tell that the actresses all got along swimmingly, because that warmth and affection just radiates off the screen. On top of that, you’ve got their goofy Dad, played by John Corbett, who is just a delight. And I’d heard that the internet was obsessed with Noah Centineo who plays Peter, but…let’s just say, dude is definitely good looking, and I 100% get it.
Is the movie a little predictable? Yes, but I don’t care. I don’t think anyone does. The story is great, the acting is above par, and it’s fun to see a young love story play out on screen again in a way that’s not completely cringe-worthy. Romantic comedies used to be released all the time because they were cheaper to make, and were good counter-programming to action movies and thrillers. Since women go to more movies than men, shouldn’t the market cater to that instead of churning out endless superhero movies and sequels? The problem is that women go to see those movies too, and I’m in that group. But I think with the advent of streaming services as a legitimate way to release new movies, there’s a chance that we’ll see even more of these mid-budget movies geared towards women. In any case – it’s a fun movie, and well worth the evening that I spent watching it.
Details: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, screenplay by Sofia Alvarez, directed by Susan Johnson. Streaming on Netflix.