What qualifies as a good rom-com? Well, for starters, you need to care about your central character – that’s a basic, right? (This, by the way, was my central problem with Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl. I was never invested in Serena like I was in Blair. Because, as Duana clocked right from go, Serena never really WANTED anything.) In PS I Still Love You, I still care, like deeply, about Lara Jean Covey. I’m frustrated with her, and I’m mad at her, and this is necessary – because it makes me care about her so much. Our faves should never be all the things, and they should never be right about all the things. So it’s a good thing that LJ made so many mistakes in PSISLY. It’s a good thing that she couldn’t get out of her head, that she was always doubting herself, that as soon as she was the heroine in her very own love story, she started wondering if she wanted to be in a different love story. I just… don’t know if that love story needed to be a triangle?
Not that I didn’t enjoy the sequel. I watched it three times so of course I enjoyed it. But it was probably unrealistic to think that it could be as good as the first one, right? Still, even having read the book, knowing what was coming with Peter Kavinsky and John Ambrose McClaren, as adorable as Jordan Fisher is, and he gave it a good shot, for sure, this didn’t feel like the story we needed.
The story we needed was told in the best scene in the movie – and it didn’t involve PK or JAM at all. The best scene in PS I Still Love You is the one in the tree house between Lara Jean and Gen. And if PSISLY had focused more on LJ coming to terms with growing out of friendships, coming into her own identity, connecting the times and the people who shaped her then with the experiences and the person she has become now, it would have been a better movie. LJ isn’t unsure of how to move forward in her relationship with PK because of JAM, it’s because she still hasn’t recovered from the very real trauma of losing her best childhood best friend. For so many of us, the most significant relationships we have in high school aren’t romantic. Learning how to be a friend, failing at being a friend, failing yourself in friendship, having friendship fail you – this, so often, is the brand that high school leaves on you. The metaphor for that would be the bracelets that LJ and Gen left in their time capsule. So as great as that scene was, and it was the scene that really elevated the movie, it also illuminated the movie’s central flaw. Moving into the third movie, which will probably (hopefully?) be out later this year, as LJ prepares to leave high school, and adolescence, and move into a phase of her life, perhaps the focus will be less on the tempting romantic love triangle thing and more on personal growth.
What PS I Still Love You did well though, very well, is hit one of my rom-com essentials: the gut punch. In a rom-com, there has to be that moment that makes your insides clench, and you’re transported back to your own heartbreak and heartache, when your stomach falls away, when you can’t breathe from the pain. In 10 Things I Hate About You it’s when Kat finds out about Patrick’s deal. And again when she reads her poem. In While You Were Sleeping it’s when Lucy tells the truth. In To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, it’s after the ski trip, after LJ finds out that Gen has her scrunchie, and she confronts PK: “Am I just a joke to you?” And then later, outside her house, when he tells her that she was never second best.
You want those moments to hit you hard. You want to feel what they must be feeling. And they accomplish this in PSISLY, right before Peter gets on the bus to go to the game and he and LJ have that fight about Gen, and she breaks up with him, and the look on both their faces…
I felt it. I was waiting for it and I still felt it.
This is why I’ve watched it three times already, and counting.
One minor gripe though? If that’s OK? Because while you might think this is superficial, it’s actually still work-related: Lara Jean’s hair in the movie is… not good. Lana Condor has shoulder-length hair so they were using hairpieces for her to play LJ and, well, you could tell. Kathleen and I watched on the first viewing together and, half an hour in, we turned to each other and were like, is the hair distracting you? The texture seemed off. Because of the extensions, there was weird volume to the crown, and around the top of her head, that restricted the rest of the hair’s movement. And you could see certain pieces coming loose in certain scenes, especially the last scene, as she’s walking towards to the door to find Peter, a shorter strand breaks loose from the rest of it, making it so obvious that the extensions weren’t smoothed together. Did you notice too?
Attached - Lana Condor out in New York promoting PSISLY earlier this month.