Tag Archives: teenage romance

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.

Advertisements

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.

Alex Strangelove

Virginity.

I know none of you whores actually remembers those early days when your genitals were dusty in the corners from disuse, but if you’re aching for a refresher, Alex Strangelove (actual name: Alex Truelove, which is worse) is a teenage boy who can’t wait to lose his to his high school girlfriend, Claire. Except it keeps not happening, and not because Claire is shutting things down. In fact, it’s Claire that reveals to their friends that she’s been attempting to de-virginize him for a year, and Alex keeps shying away. Alex is no alpha male; he’s smart and sensitive and vaguely neurotic. But he’s also 100% sure he wants to fuck Claire.

Except not. And especially not after he meets a very cute boy at a party that he can’t get out of his head.

Alex Strangelove is about a boy coming to grips with his sexuality, which may or may not involve actual sex. The love triangle between Alex (Daniel Doheny) and Claire (Madeline Weinstein, no relation to the monster) and Elliott (Antonio Marziale) feels very simplealex-strangelove-e1523976102143 and pure and wholesome and innocent. It’s funny how when you’re a teenager yourself, everything feels like drama, but watching it as a grown-ass woman, I realize how exceedingly easy it all is, and I just want to make them all grilled cheeses and tell them to just enjoy this. Finding yourself is a magical time, if not always an easy one. But Alex’s coming out isn’t going to be traumatic. His friends want nothing more than for him to be happy. I hope that is increasingly the case in 2018 but I know it’s still far from universal. It sucks that for some people, a certain amount of bravery is still required in simply claiming your truth and identity.

Which is why this movie feels particularly important to share right now, in June, the month of Pride. Gay, or straight, or anything in between, owning who you are is a twisty path. And even if you’ll be met with nothing but acceptance and open arms, it can be scary to slap a minority label on yourself and show it to the world. This movie is not a particularly good movie, to be honest, but it’s the kind that feels true to the time. It’s no John Hughes – but if you’ve recently rewatched almost any John Hughes, you’ll agree that those movies haven’t aged very well: racist, homophobic, sexist…we can’t really excuse that shit anymore. Those movies are dinosaurs. And if this isn’t quite a replacement for the classics, it’s a step in a gayer direction.

The Kissing Booth

Oh my god I want to kill myself.

 

The movie made me say that, and actually I said it more than once. Sean thought it was a sufficient review.

Is it though?

I’ll give you just a touch more:

A girl and a guy, both virgins and best friends, have a couple of strict rules to their friendship, the most important one being don’t fall in love with each other’s siblings, so oh my god guys, guess what happens!

MV5BYjJlOTk2ZDctY2U5Mi00ZmJjLTk0YTAtMGY4NjNmNGI1OTE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_.jpg

She totally falls in love with his hunky older brother, and a lot of the plot revolves around a kissing booth at their high school carnival, but I’m struggling to tell you why this was important.

Anyway, there was some dialogue so bad it still wasn’t good but I did laugh, in a gaggy, kill me now, can we turn this off kind of way. It feels written by someone who never even went to high school, and who doesn’t care if they damage female self-esteem for an entire generation. The stuff that happens is infuriating and improbable and I’d rather pull out my own toenails and eat them than watch this again.