Tag Archives: teenage romance

Tall Girl

Sean is a Tall Boy. He is 6’6. Yes he played basketball. And rugby. And volleyball. And he swam, actually. All the things a lean tall boy should do, including nearly eating his poor mother out of house and home – his poor, moderately sized mother had 3 Tall Sons actually, and it seems a testament to her budgeting that she never had to take out a second mortgage to feed them. He expected to date a tall woman. Preferred to date a tall woman. I am not tall. Well, horizontally tall, maybe. Vertically: certainly not. I tap out at 5’3 when at my most erect. My little younger youngest sister likes to poke fun at my littleness by calling me “funsize” like the bullshit tiny Halloween chocolate bars. She is half an inch taller but it burns me and she knows it.

Anyway. Sean is tall. Jay is not. That’s a 15 inch difference between us. Yikes. But I made my peace with my height a long time ago. I’ve had plenty of time; I stopped growing in the fifth grade. I can’t reach the tall shelf and in most chairs my feet dangle without touching the floor but I clear a lot of tree branches without ducking and fit into all the sports cars that Sean has only seen the outside of (I did cram him into a Mazda Miata once but couldn’t bear to pull the trigger and sentence him to 5-7 years of Sean-origami. Sean deals with the back pain that leaning down to kiss me induces and I deal with the fact that my eyes are inconveniently located exactly at elbow height for him (“the danger zone” I call it). He lies diagonally on the bed and I fit in the triangle space on either side quite neatly. My shopping expertise means for the first time he has the right inseams and size 14 shoes that don’t suck.

Being a Tall Boy is actually a very nice thing, I take it. Like in the movie, people often ask him “How’s the weather up there?” (mostly old men) to which Sean gamely replies “Terrific!” But being a Tall Girl is a lot harder, especially a Tall Teenage Girl. Jodi is only 6’1 but fears her height defines her. She feels all too visible. Even boys her own height are intimated, but those who are shorter, who make up the majority, have zero interest. So whether or not the weather “up there” is nice, it’s awfully lonely. Which makes me feel a tiny bit guilty for taking a Tall Boy off the market when technically speaking a dude who is 5’7 is Tall Boy to me.

Of course Jodi (Ava Michelle) is also a bit oblivious because her best friend Jack (Griffin Gluck) has always been interested, if only she had cast her gaze slightly downward. Instead she looks only up, and eventually meets the eyes of the handsome (and tall, needless to say) exchange student Stig (Luke Eisner), who is sort of already taken. But with expert advice from her beauty queen sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter), Jodi hopes to achieve Tall Couple status. Anyway, it’s easy to find sympathy for Jodi, who is indeed Going Through Something (and it’s not a growth spurt) (and so what if it was?) even when she’s not being her best self. It’s less easy to find forgiveness in your heart for some pretty lazy mean girl tropes and some random and unnecessary shaming.

For some reason boy-girl couples are supposed to have a height differential that only works in one direction. It’s arbitrary and nonsensical and yet deeply culturally ingrained. But you guys: it’s bullshit! It’s as stupid and useless as those teeny tiny chocolate bars. We don’t need to abide by rules that don’t make sense: reject that shit. Kiss people because they’re nice and smart and do good things in the world. My grandmother was (is) taller than my grandfather, and yeah they’re miserable but they’ve been married for 67 years and there’s every chance that at least the first 5 were crazysexycool (he had a motorcycle!).

Tall Girl makes tall girls feel seen, even if that’s the last thing they want. It’s not a great movie, but since it streams on Netflix there’s little investment and little to lose, in inches or dignity or any other measure.

Five Feet Apart

Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Poe (Moises Arias) are friends, roommates and teenagers who’ve known each other since they were kids. They’ve been through a lot together and their bond is undeniable. When a third wheel, Will (Cole Sprouse), moves into the building, things begin to change.

Also worth noting: Stella, Poe, and Will are all CF patients, and the building in which they live is of course a hospital. They’re all living in the same ward but because of their disease, they aren’t allowed to come any closer to each other than 6 feet. Which puts a real damper on the budding romance between Stella and Will. Of course , the looming specter of their mortality is also boner-softening, I’d imagine.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a fatal genetic disease for which there is no cure. It affects mostly the digestive system and the lungs. It’s the progressive lung damage from chronic infection that usually gets them in the end. Average life expectancy is almost but not quite middle age.

So here is another entry in the dead or dying teenager trope, which is weirdly having a moment. Or maybe it’s always having a moment. Teenagers like to really heighten the stakes. These teenagers know their limits and why they exist, not that it makes it any easier to follow them. They’re not trying to endanger their lives, but they are trying to live them. A warrior nurse named Barb (Kimberly H├ębert Gregory) will do everything she can to keep them going, and sometimes that pits her against them. I thought constantly about how hard that must be for her. She’s the one caring for them day in and day out, likely for years, and definitely for weeks and months at a time. She has more contact with them than any friends or family. But it’s not her job to match-make, or to chaperone dates. It’s to keep them alive another day.

CF patients may find it hard to fall in love. Their time outside hospitals is limited. Their time on earth is limited. But love between CF patients can’t happen at all because they must never, ever touch. Teenagers may find forbidden love irresistible, but this is a whole other level.

The Last Summer

It’s the summer before college and all bets are off. Kids are making plans, making memories, and making out.

But because they’re all going their separate ways in just a few weeks, there’s a transient MV5BMTg3NTQ5Mjc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzg0MjU4NzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_nature to their hooking up. Does any of it even mean anything? And more importantly: do you, the viewer, care? There are perhaps a few too many characters to really keep straight, and some of them are rather odious. But let’s say the main ones are Griffin (K.J. Apa) and Phoebe (Maia Mitchell). She’s too busy to date this summer, working tirelessly on a film that might help pay for NYU. And yet she and Griffin spend an awful lot of time together, eating barbecue and having sex, and they’re on their way to the same city for college, so things look…possible?

The Last Summer is Netflix’s most recent attempt to lure in the YA rom-com crowd, and as painful as many of them have been, this one’s just boring and about as subtle as a love interesting literally landing in your lap. It’s like someone played magnetic poetry with shitty teen romance tropes, and then did nothing whatsoever to punch them up or make them new. The tired old stuff was good enough for The Last Summer – Netflix’s cinematic recycling bin.

The Perfect Date

Like 90% of teen movies, the general conceit is that the protagonist is reflecting upon his short life via the old college application essay.

Brooks Rattigan (the dreamy Noah Centineo) hopes to be Harvard bound, but his guidance counselor counsels him that he’s really quite bland and uninteresting, so he’s got to “find himself” in order to inject zing and zeal into his application.

A chance opportunity to be paid to escort the lovely if anti-social Celia (Laura Marano) to her high school formal births two very important plot points: Brooks falls for the MV5BZTJkZDZjYTMtNTNiYy00MGFlLWIzZmUtZjEzM2ZlMDY4NTI1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_terminally popular and super-rich Shelby (Camila Mendes), and he gets an idea for a business opportunity. He’s going to need a lot of money to pay for Harvard (and to woo Celia), so why not rent himself as a date for hire? It worked well enough the first time, with Shelby, so why not with other girls? He recruits best friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) to set up a dating app, one where girls can choose what date he’ll take them on, what outfit he’ll wear, what topics he’ll discuss, even what personality he’ll embody.

Nothing could go wrong, right?

Every single thing that happens is boldly predictable and unimaginative. But you didn’t come innovative story-telling or artistic film making. You came to lose yourself in the deep chocolate pools of Noah Centineo’s soulful eyes. Which is a good thing because Noah Centineo has not one but two eyes, and the movie has otherwize a grand total of 0 reasons to watch. The characters are extremely rough drafts of real people and they have no motivation, no arc, nothing.

You know those cardboard cutouts of movie stars that used to dot your local Blockbuster? Well you could use those life-sized cardboard cutouts to reenact this movie and it would be fairly indistinguishable. I don’t think the quality would suffer at all. But then you’d miss out on Noah Centineo’s wavy hair, and the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles. Of course, if you are not a 12 year old girl, you may find yourself impervious to his Millennial charms, and therefore you should stay the heck away from this movie because it just isn’t any good.

Midnight Sun

Another day, another dying teen. Hollywood loves to kill off teenagers. Movies are the #1 leading cause of 30 year olds playing 15 year olds dying prematurely.

In Midnight Sun, Katie has xeroderma pigmentosum, or XP, a rare genetic condition that means the sun is literally poisonous to her and could kill her in seconds. As you can imagine, she’s led a sheltered 17 years, sleeping by day, hanging out with her protective dad by night. But give a girl an ounce of outside contact, and she comes home with a boy, from whom she keeps her illness a secret.

This movie takes its cues from last year’s dying teen girl movie, Everything MV5BNTNkOTQ4ZjUtMjhiMC00MWNkLWJlMjQtYmY4ZmQ4ZDhkOTVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_Everything, in which the girl is also confined to her house, but she wasn’t allergic to the sun, she was allergic to everything. Possibly including the sun. And she didn’t have a dead mother, she had a dead father. And she didn’t fall in love with the boy next door. Oh wait, she did. So yeah, beautiful teen girls with terminal diseases just waiting to die up in their castles until a boy comes along who’s handsome enough to make her risk it all. So she can die on her front lawn instead.

Why do teen girls want so badly to watch themselves die? I wonder if movies made to be watched while you’re on your period is a genre: movies that invite tears and ice cream binge-ing while making young women feel seen. But high school romance doesn’t need to have life or death stakes, and your first boyfriend shouldn’t be your last. I’m about 15 minutes past 17, which is way too old to sympathize with what’s going on here. Featuring Bella Thorne, star of all the straight-to-Netflix runners up, and Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold and Maria Shriver, with all the genetic talent you’d assume.

It’s astonishing, really, that a movie can work this hard at being this bad. Midnight Sun puts the jerk in tearjerker.

SPF-18

The first half of SPF-18 is about virginity, or the loss thereof. Penny (Carson Meyer) needs a prom do-over, and when her boyfriend Johnny (Noah Centineo) house sits for Keanu, she brings her cousin Camilla (Bianca Santos) and a pack of condoms and and the deflowering is on.

The second half of SPF-18 is about surfing, and using it to somehow honour one’s dead father.

MV5BZjVhMmFmYTQtYTMwNC00Y2JiLTg1MDAtOGM3ZGM3Y2I0YWMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ3MjE4NTU@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_There’s a very thin line between these two halves where SPF-18 could have crossed over with The Meg, and had these vapid teenagers been devoured by a megalodon, I might have hated this a little less. As it was, just thinking of them as shark poop helped get me through.

In reality, a Christian country artist wannabe named Ash (Jackson White) baptizes himself in the nude in front of the girls, thus cementing himself in their hearts. And even though her virginity is still freshly smeared all over Keanu’s sheets, Penny’s heart goes the way of her hymen – torn.

And then Johnny’s dead dad’s surfing protegee resurfaces, guilt-ridden about his drug usage which may or may not have contributed to his mentor’s untimely death. This story really doesn’t need to be here, but the film is already a scant 75 minutes, so I guess it added some flesh to the bare bones. The rest is just redistributing the lovers. Ash has a soulful voice but Johnny has abs worth praying about.

You should be able to deduce that the script is bad but that really doesn’t do it justice. IT’S HORRENDOUS. The dialogue is embarrassing and cringe-worthy, but it’s not the worst part. The worst part are the disparate ideas strung together to make a movie. They’re so random I don’t even know how they decided which order to put them in (Evil studio executives! The benefits of pilates! Illegal doping scandals! Greek mythology! Animated meditation! High school superlatives! Unnecessary narrators! Intellectual property law! Unexplained lip lesions!). Can you hodge podge these together to make a film? No you can’t, you definitely can’t, but that’s not stopping anyone.

I don’t know anything about director Alex Israel, but I can guess that he’s an 80s kid. He certainly reveres the decade. Why else would you give a millennial rom-com a power ballad-filled soundtrack? And how else to explain small roles for Pamela Anderson, Goldie Hawn, and Molly Ringwald? This movie was painful for me, and not just because SPF-18 may as well be bacon grease (I like a nice hard 50 myself) for all the good it does. It feels like this may have been made and edited in the drunk tank by people with double vision and shaky hands and very, very poor judgment. I literally cannot believe this is a movie and I definitely cannot warn you away vehemently enough.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Netflix is trying to resuscitate the rom-com. I remain unconverted. How does their latest attempt fare?

Lara Jane is about to be a junior in high school. Her older sister Margot has just left for college in Scotland, leaving behind a huge gap – a gap only grown wider because she broke up with her boyfriend Josh, literally the boy next door, before leaving, and he was an every day presence in their home – not least of all because he was Lara Jane’s friend and secret crush first. With Margot gone, it’s just Lara Jane and little sister Kitty, who isn’t afraid to call out her sister for being super lame and not having any weekend plans of her own. Their mother is dead so it’s just them and their dad.

But then something weird happens. Lara Jane’s old, secret crushes all receive letters MV5BYWNhOTJiMzYtNmY5NS00ZDNkLTg4NjUtNTRhNzRkODg5MTQ4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk5MTc3MTc@._V1_from her. Letters that she wrote eons ago when the crushes were new and exciting but never, EVER, intended to send. Josh receives one, and so does Peter, Lara Jane’s first kiss but current boyfriend of her arch-enemy. Ah, high school. But she’s so desperate to avoid Josh that she consents to have a fake relationship with Peter in order to divert attention. It’s the kind of plan that can only seem reasonable to a 16 year old.

Lana Condor is all kinds of adorable as Lara Jane. She’s sweet and charming and nearly everything you’d want in a romantic lead in 2018 (dorky, smart, independent). Is adorkable a thing? It should be. Lara Jane is it. But just as 2018 demands a new kind of romantic lead, it also needs a new kind of boyfriend. No more brooding, distant, too-cool-to-give-a-shit guys. Peter Kavinsky is not just the floppy-haired, Jeep-driving boyfriend you want, he’s the kind of teddy bear you deserve – kind and thoughtful and loving. He puts more work into a fake relationship than every mopey 80s hunk or neurotic 90s hearthrob combined. 2018’s boyfriend ideal is in touch with his feelings, and he just wants you to be happy.

The movie takes no risks and offers no surprises. The two blandly handsome possible love interests, played by Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard, look similar enough that Sean couldn’t tell them apart. Sean is no teenage girl. Teenage girls, I bet, will have no problem choosing which one to swoon over (and apparently there IS a right answer). For me, this movie felt very Disney channel, and its constant 16 Candles references didn’t really earn it any favourable comparisons (in fact, it made Sean mourn some distinct missed opportunities). To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is not a rom-com for old ladies like me. It’s innocent in a lot of ways, but with a 2018 flavour that’s still alien to me. But I have no doubt it will find its audience – it’s just not going to be anyone born in the previous century, and not even John Corbett (no longer the leading man, relegated strictly to dad status) can change that.