Tag Archives: teenage romance

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.

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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!

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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.

Love, Simon

I wondered whether we needed a ‘coming out’ movie in 2018, but Love, Simon surprised me. It surprised me most of all by being good, but also by making a case for its existence. Simon is a high school student with a secret. He’s gay. And it’s not that he’s particularly afraid of how his family or friends will react to the news, which is nice, and sadly not everyone’s experience. But Simon’s still holding back just because he feels that life will change for him once he’s out, and he’s not feeling ready to rock the boat.

The thing is, no matter how gently the boat would actually rock, it still should be Simon’s choice when and how to come out – and that should remain true until the proverbial ‘coming out’ is no longer necessary (ie, when hetero is no longer the ‘default’). But in the MV5BZjdmNjI4NjctNWEwNi00M2EwLTg4MzItMWFmMTU0MDJiMzA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTE0MDE1MjQ@._V1_film, Simon (Nick Robinson) has that stolen from him. Another kid, Martin (Logan Miller), learns his secret and exploits it, uses it to blackmail him for his own ends. Which, okay, further illustrates that everyone in high school is desperate and scared and going through something. But saving yourself should neverĀ  be at somebody else’s expense. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson both Martin AND Simon will have to learn, because to protect his secret, Simon makes some bad choices that will hurt the very friends who will love and support him if and when he does choose to be out.

It’s a pretty solid cast and a pretty solid story and a good reminder that just because being gay is a little more…mainstream? tolerated? understood? – it can still feel like a thing that sets you apart. And while being gay is not a choice, we should all be allowed to choose our own path. Sexuality doesn’t really set us apart but secrets do. And living your truth is the only way out.

Every Day

A couple of weeks ago, after yet another heavy snowfall, Sean slid his beautiful car into a dump truck stubbornly parked in the middle of the road. Mournful, he sent me pictures of the damage (he was totally fine, the car incurred some ugly scratches) so that I could send a sympathy bouquet with my deepest condolences. He had his car doctor on speed dial of course, and this week he brought her in for cosmetic surgery. In the meantime, he’s traded in his flashy muscle car for a Toyota Camry rental and it’s destroying his soul. After a 6 minute drive he declared “Everything is backwards!” What, pray tell, is backwards, exactly? Well, the wipers. Well, not the wipers, but the wiper knob, it’s on the other side of the steering wheel. Is that all, Sean? Oh no. Another backwards thing: his car is fast, this one is slow. When I mention this seems more like opposites than backwards, he clearly does not appreciate the difference, or he doesn’t appreciate my pointing it out.

Cut to: a Camry-ride later, we’re at a screening of Every Day, the newest in teen romance. One of the “lead characters” is…well, not a ghost, maybe more like a soul, who migrates MV5BNDQwYTJhYWItNzY1MC00NzM5LWI1YjgtM2ExNzE3MWRiODk1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDI4MTE4OTU@._V1_SX1499_CR0,0,1499,999_AL_to a different teenaged body every day. This entity will henceforth be named A. A. happens to fall in love with a girl named Rhiannon (Angourie Rice). Rhiannon never knows what her love will look like, so she just has to walk around school until she finds a stranger giving her the creeps. That’ll be today’s version of A.

As you can imagine, there are some challenges to dating someone who is, erm, bodily challenged. It’s a lot for a couple of kids to take on. Luckily, these aren’t normal teenagers but the world’s most tolerant, imaginative, understanding teenagers who are so open-minded they might just make this thing work (if only the skeptical\logical adults don’t get in the way). It’s hard to imagine less vain members of the selfie generation – A. runs the gamut from hot cheerleader to the fat sidekick from Spiderman: Homecoming, and yes of course A. chronicles them all on Instagram, because duh.

It seems statistically impossible that, of the more than a dozen young actors who play A., not a single one of them is any good, but this is where the long odds pay off. At some point the casting agent must have just said fuck it and gone for the perfect score, even if it is in the wrong direction. What I’m really grappling with is how old this movie made me feel. I am now so far away from being a teenage girl myself that I can’t even identify what a “cute boy” is anymore. Understand that my mother called me boy-crazy since I was 3; my bedroom walls were plastered in Luke Perry posters, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Joey McIntyre, and Leo, of course. So I used to be a bit of a heartthrob aficionado, not to brag. But now? My hottie-thermometer was stone cold. I could not have distinguished between the “hot boyz” and lint pulled up from between the sofa cushions. The struggle is real, y’all.

In conclusion: if you are a 14 year old girl, proceed with gusto. Everyone else should probably consider carrying a special spray just to ward this one off. Watching this movie is like main-lining progesterone. It hits you in the ovaries so hard I went home and immediately had the period cries.

Sean watched the movie hands clasped, eyes to the ceiling. Was he praying for his own death? We’ll never know. But as we walked back toward the Camry humbly awaiting us in the cinema parking lot, he wondered if it was actually his beloved Mustang simply manifesting itself in the ugly body of a reliable, economical, mid-size sedan. Maybe?

November Criminals

Addison is a precocious high school student who is only too happy to take time out from grieving his recently deceased mother to lose his virginity to elusive beauty Phoebe and apply to college. But while he’s pursuing these quintessentially teenaged dreams, a friend of his gunned down in a nearby coffee shop. Kevin is well-liked, a good student, an inquiring mind, but because he’s black the cops seem to dismiss the crime as “gang related” and Addison is crushed that no one is looking for his killer.

If it works at all, November Criminals has two likeable leads in Ansel Elgort and Chloe Grace Moretz; their chemistry makes up for some of the defects in their characters which are ENORMOUS AND UNFORGIVABLE. Ansel Elgort is tasked with playing a thoroughly hero_November-Criminals-2017unlikeable kid, and Grace-Moretz simply gets assigned the not-fully-realized female costar who heals his sadness by touching his penis. It’s not remotely their fault but November Criminals is maybe the most undercooked movie I’ve ever seen – like, on a scale from rare to well-done, it’s a bloody, oozy, thoroughly blue kind of undercooked that’s bound to give you worms. I’ve read the novel upon which it is based and half-remember it, and even that half-memory is more fulsome than the script for this thing, which feels like it’s missing about 75% of its content and 100% of what would make it understandable or good. The film offers up a small slice of the story, with an inadequate beginning and hardly any end, and such an abbreviated middle you’ll wonder if perhaps we’re still in the opening credits. But while the movie needs at least another two hours in order to tell its story, the mere thought of having to sit through a single moment more than its 85 minute run time is upsetting. This film never justifies any reason for its existence and wastes every frame of its film.

Even in a post-hipster culture, teenagers who willfully carry beepers are just knobs. White kids who become vigilantes for their black friend’s death out of sheer boredom are intolerable. This movie serves up so much that is objectionable I could hardly stand to see it all the way to the end. Maybe the teenage angst coupled with a murder mystery was supposed to invoke Veronica Mars but the movie is troubled, voiceless, neutered. Don’t bother.