I love a good teen rom com.
This isn’t one.
The central conceit here is that there are two best friends, Elle and Lee (Joey King and Joel Courtney), who have been friends since they were little kids. Now high schoolers their friendship endures thanks to a series of rules they follow. However, one of the rules is that Lee’s older brother is off limits. Of course, Elle falls for Noah (Jacob Elordi) and he for her. Cue much sneaking around and inevitable drama when it all comes to light.
The title refers to the fundraiser that Elle and Lee set up for their dance club, where Elle kisses Noah for the first time.
The problem with this movie is that the character of Noah is underwritten to the point that aside from being a hot guy, you never understand why Elle falls for him. He’s set up as a big man on campus, a popular jock who regularly gets into fights, but that’s it. You keep thinking that the film will add a second layer, but nothing develops. I mean, he’s going to Harvard, which I assume means he’s smart, but we see no evidence of this. He’s a slightly aggressive meathead at the start, and he pretty much continues to be the same aside from occasionally professing his love for Elle.
The whole movie feels old fashioned. This extends to the soundtrack, which features some old tracks. In the early stages of the movie it’s found out that Noah has warned guys off Elle and protects her, but this feels a bit of a cliche and like something from an ’80s teen movie. And a bad one at that, not a John Hughes movie. Elle is slightly annoyed by this but very quickly starts viewing it as a sign that he cares for her and that it’s kinda sweet. What?!
Similarly, after another jock slaps her arse while wearing a short skirt, Elle then dates said jock and Noah actually uses the phrase “asking for it”, which the film does flag but quickly moves on from. The whole episode is handled extremely poorly.
The love story is painfully flat throughout, which is a shame, because Joey King is quite charming as Elle in the other scenes of the movie. She shares genuine chemistry with Joel Courtney, who is the standout as Lee. Unfortunately, with them being separated by her sneaking around and the following fallout the strongest part of the film vanishes for a long period of the movie.
It’s also kinda lame that Elle gets to deliver this speech about how being a best friend doesn’t give Lee the right to tell her who to love. I’m firmly Team Lee here, as the major issue is that she snuck around and lied to him about it. Also, we get one scene where Lee reveals why he is so upset and it’s another missed opportunity. He says that Noah gets everything, and that Elle was the one thing that was his, which is a bit possessive and less interesting. They could have talked about how Lee felt like he was always in Noah’s shadow, that he feels like a lamer version of him or that people use him to get close to Noah. All of these would have had a bit more resonance than the poor reason we get in the end.
There are a few funny moments and, as I said, Courtney and King are on fine form, but the rest of the movie is a mess. Supporting characters are distinctly one note,
I know some may feel I was expecting too much from a teen movie, but that’s unfair. The genre has produced far superior fare, and this falls far short of previous movies. And it feels like a step backwards, the teen genre has had some quite clever, witty films over the years including Clueless and Easy A, this lacks their intelligence and humour.
Oh, and the adult roles are lacking too. I’m a firm believer that quite often the adult characters bring a lot to teen movies, but here the parents and teachers are poorly written too, Molly Ringwald turns up as Lee and Noah’s mum but gets a couple of scenes.
While Netflix has succeeded with it’s shows, I’m massively unimpressed with their movie output. Avoid.
Verdict: Poorly written and with a male love interest who is painfully undeveloped, this film falls flat and is rather forgettable. The two leads have chemistry but are let down by a mediocre script which feels outdated, overly simple and shallow. 3/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.