By Andy Chandler
Coming-of-age dramas are a strange old bag, if they’re too serious they becoming a slog but if they’re too jokey they become American Pie.
John Hughes gets it right, from The Breakfast Club to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (if you ignore it’s glaring plot holes), you get a great experience from his films. A touch of sentiment, a great laugh and a journey that takes these characters somewhere they never thought they’d go wether it’s weekend detention with Bender or one of those many carnivals that take place during the week when most people are either working or at school….we’re all familar with THOSE carnivals….right?!?!
Anyway, the journey is the most important part. Even Stifler from American Pie ended those movies in a different place from when they started. He grew (minutely) and evolved (fractionally).
When I first heard that Netflix were doing a film adaption of Jenny Han’s popular book ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and words like ‘John Hughes inspired’ started getting kicked around, I was excited. Mainly because the art of doing teen dramas seems to be a dying one, so aiming to make a John Hughes-esque movie is a noble deed because it’d be nice to have a modern Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink for teenagers, a film that doesn’t feel as if it’s from another era but that has the lessons and soul of those early movies, I think it would be a healthy way to aid kids through the minefield of their lives.
So I sat down, fired up Netflix and was ready to be blown away…..but I wasn’t. What’s the synopsis I hear you mutter…well: Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) is a sixteen-year-old half-Korean, half-Caucasian girl. She is exceptionally close to her older sister Margot and younger sister Kitty. Lara Jean keeps unsent love letters to all the boys she has ever loved in a teal hatbox given to her by her late mother.
This box full of love letters gets sent out one day and, once her previous crushes read them, it starts to wreak utter havoc on Lara Jean’s life and now she must deal with the consequences, including dealing with the fallout of writing a letter to her older sister’s ex boyfriend Josh….
What Netflix had here was a great chance to make something relevant, funny and heartfelt for today’s youth. Instead what you end up with is a quirky, kooky tale of teen awkwardness that takes everything you know and love about teen dramas and does nothing.
Characters swan in and out of this tale for literally no reason, people you think might become big parts become nothing and tiny characters whose sole purpose seems to be to grimace at the lead actress over a fence suddenly become the emotional crux of a film where the ‘big speech’ that finally makes Lara Jean go and get the boy are just a brief summing up of the plot to the film that you’ve just watched.
People not acting like people is a big gripe I have with many films nowadays but this one wears it like a badge of honour, it turns out that Lara’s younger sister sent out the box of letters to ‘help’ Lara with her boy situation but she isn’t punished or told off for rifling through her sisters’ stuff and then posting them, everyone just smiles at her, including Lara (who has just had her life ripped apart) hugs her and tells her it’s ok. What!
The one message this film carries is about dealing with the consequences to your actions but it doesn’t even have the stomach to deal with the interferring little brat who started this entire thing off.
It has all of the set up but none of the heart and humour of a John Hughes film, it’s yet another bad attempt by Netflix to turn a best-selling book into something worth watching and, yet again, they drop the ball. The best thing about this entire experience was that it’s only 99 minutes long, but even that is just 99 minutes you could spend watching The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire or just going to one of those weekday carnivals we know all about. 5/10.