TATBILB: Rom-Com Genius? Or Is It Ok-ish?

by Laira Bhurji

Staff Boy Hater

Here is a hot (and probably unpopular) take: the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is overrated.

Most people have noted that this past year the romantic comedy genre is blasting back into Hollywood. A lot of notable blockbusters, on Netflix and in theaters, have been making people cry out for more—see Set It Up, Crazy Rich Asians, and Love, Simon. For some reason, I feel like I am back in the 80s watching Molly Ringwald play a love interest in every single John Hughes movie ever. It is the start of a new era, and I am 100% here for it every step of the way.

So, to say I was excited to get a half-Korean, half-Caucasian girl as the protagonist in a big upcoming rom-com is an understatement. Diversity fuels me in ways even coffee cannot. It only made sense that I was one of those people who stayed up until 12AM PST to watch the movie as it began streaming on Netflix.

Picture this: I am lying in bed, bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, right up until the movie started. Looking back at it, my stamina to watch the movie diminished as the minutes went by. I think I had to pause once or twice due to secondhand embarrassment, but I pushed through and came out of the movie clearly thinking I had wasted an hour and a half of my life.

I was shocked. I thought to myself, I could not have just been beyond excited to watch Lana Condor in colorful scrunchies and skirts and end up being disappointed in the character. Spoiler alert: I was thoroughly disappointed.

In my opinion, Lara Jean Song has to be one of the most petulant characters I have ever come across to this date. She is a 16-year-old who acts, at most, like a child in many situations. Her communication skills resemble those of an awkward, non-confrontational middle schooler, and she blames a lot of her problems on outside forces.
Maybe this is just me being very picky, but I’d rather have a character that does not resemble the “docile and whiny Asian girl” stereotype that is found in a lot of young adult books (note: see Cho Chang). She gave off this constant image that she could not face reality and would rather listen to other people tell her to change than to figure it out for herself.

Besides that, the romance between the leads Peter and Lara seemed off to me. The timing was super rushed, and I kid you not, it felt like in one scene Peter was still hung up on his ex and in the next, he told Lara Jean that she was “never second best” to him. The dispassionate relationship that simmered between them through the whole movie came to an anti-climactic end as they make up after a fight I do not even remember them having.

There are little plot points that are never fully addressed—the hot tub video, what happened to Josh/Margot, and the outcome of Lara Jean’s favorite scrunchie—which bothered me too.

However, of course, this movie was not an all-around bad teen rom-com to me, for it still had its shining moments. Noah Centineo and Lana Condor, the two actors who play Peter and Lara Jean, have a lot of on-screen chemistry, and that really pushed through to make their romance seem slightly believable. The cinematography had me in awe in some scenes, and the whole 80s vibe in the diner and with Lara Jean’s outfits made me squeal.
While I do think some people may be better off just watching Love, Simon or Crazy Rich Asians as their intended rom-com, this movie is still a step forward to a more inclusive cast and a worthy supporting addition to the 2018 romantic comedy takeover.

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