Monday, May 14, 2018

The Kissing Booth: Movie Review

Familiar but likable rom-com.
The Kissing Booth seems to have found its audience on Netflix even if critics are largely panning this movie. I think some of the criticisms are fair, but some are pretty lazy – is this better than every teen rom com that came before it? Nope. It retreads some very familiar ground, but it also fits its genre like a well-worn but comforting glove. 2018

Directed by: Vince Marcello

Screenplay by: Vince Marcello
Based on the book by Beth Reekles

Starring: Joey King, Jacob Elordi

The main reason I like it is lead actress Joey King. Elle is cute, funny, and relatable (think an Amanda Bynes from the 2000s or Rachel Leigh Cook from the 90s). I have been a big Joey King fan since Wish I Was Here and she gave that film her unique coming-of-age journey. King really does have a unique quality which helps her stand out, and maybe in a film which does nothing to stand out it seems off-putting. However, The Kissing Booth desperately needs her likability and screen presence.

Elle is a smart character who makes some bad decisions. Unlike most of her comedy compatriots, she’s not a walking, talking series of bad decisions; she’s just a girl with a really big crush on a guy and just can’t help but do things and say things she probably shouldn’t. Just like we all did at 16 – granted, it’s definitely exaggerated, because my mistakes didn’t involve doing a strip tease in the male locker room, but this is a movie.

The one fresh twist for the movie is Elle’s best friend is a guy (and at no point do either of them suggest being more than that) and her crush is his brother. From there on it’s a typical romantic comedy – for both good and bad. A teen rom com needs a likable lead character (got that covered), fun music, and romantic chemistry. Her crush is Noah (Jacob Elordi) and he’s hot. Their romance is heavily told through montages (also where the fun music comes in) but they make a hot couple. I am rooting for them. He is also the exact boy I would have gotten myself in trouble for in high school, so yeah, it’s relatable.

The main plot comes via a kissing booth. I have no idea if these things exist in real life, but I, and presumably writers Vince Marcello and Beth Reekles, have seen them referenced in so many movies and TV shows that we just accept their legitimacy. They are probably even less likely to exist now, but hey, just set the movie in the 80s and problem solved (it also, miraculously would become a much better reviewed movie).

I have heard people complain it’s anti-feminist; however, I disagree. There’s an early scene where Elle wears a short skirt and Noah says “you were asking for it” – sure, that has no place in a movie, except Elle follows that up by staring at him and letting him work out his extreme sexism for himself. Elle knows better than to dignify douchebag nonsense like that with a response. Even if she did fall in love with a douchebag herself; hey, it happens.

The issues I am less forgiving with are the male aggression. These boys really like to beat things up and it’s too bad because Elle does deserve better. There’s also too much heteronormativity on display and makes the film feel less inclusive. Director Vince Marcello probably watched too many teen rom coms from the 80s and 90s and forgot to upgrade it. Probably why others find the movie repetitive and unoriginal. The Kissing Booth is unapologetically a teen rom com. The heroine is likable and the romance is fun. You’re just not going to get much more than that.