When you think of summer at the movies, you might think of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson throwing his fist through a skyscraper or Jason Statham punching a shark or whatever that movie is about. You might think of Tom Cruise sprinting through traffic with abandon, proving he’s got unbeatable 56-year-old cartilage. Summer 2018 at the movies is all about the rom-com. FINALLY. I’m going to remember it as the summer we watched Nick and Rachel fall in love and the summer we met Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky.
In real life, it’s the summer of quick celeb engagements and young love, juxtaposed with the dumpster fire of a debilitating 24-hour news cycle. This summer has proved that people just want to be in love and believe in love. We want a cinematic experience, even if it’s from the comfort of our couches, to make us feel good. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before will make you feel really good. Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky will make you believe in love, even high school love, so hard you’ll forget you’re too old to be crushing on a teenage boy, even a fictional one who happens to be played by a 22-year-old.
PETER KAVINSKY. If I didn’t have any restraint as a grown-ass woman (barely in her 30s), I would be scribbling “Kathleen Kavinsky” all over my notebooks and day dreaming about Noah Centineo’s dimples all day instead of working. I’ll probably still do the latter. I’ll come back to Noah Centineo. As dreamy as he is, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is not his movie. He makes the movie great but there’s one performance that makes it a classic and that’s Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to all the times we’ve yelled at you about this movie, to recap, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is about a teenage girl (Lara Jean) who writes letters to her crushes and her world blows up when those deeply personal and detailed professions of love get sent to said crushes. It then turns into a classic rom-com fake relationship plot that is predictable but still satisfying – SO SATISFYING. Predictability is expected in any rom-com but a good one doesn’t sacrifice its pleasure. A good one has you swooning the whole way to its inevitable happy ending. A good one rests heavily on the shoulders of its star.
Lara Jean is witty, endearing and adorable, oozing with quiet confidence that she is blissfully unaware of. She’s also a typical teenage girl who loves HARD in her head and keeps a running stream of consciousness that is too mortifying to say out loud. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before doesn’t take away the beating heart of the books, which is Lara Jean’s inner monologue. Thanks to a sharp script by Sofia Alvarez, we’re still privy to Lara Jean’s thoughts but her voiceover doesn’t feel forced or inauthentic. In fact, it’s the most relatable thing about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
I didn’t date in high school. I had crushes – INTENSE CRUSHES – but my first relationship didn’t happen until my 20s. I was the teenage girl living her love life in her head. I think many introverted teens can relate to burying their face in a book and imagining romance instead of being an active participant in it. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before flawlessly captures the teenage angst of living life out in your head before you’ve really lived at all. It does so because of the strength of Lana Condor’s performance.
This is a star-making role. This is the role we will look back on in Lana Condor’s career to pinpoint the beginning of her ascent. God, she is so f-cking good. Her delivery is subtle yet strong. Her demeanor awkward yet assured. There’s a point in the movie, right after Peter kisses her on the lacrosse field, when Lara does a quirky shoulder pivot and darts off the field that I paused and re-watched so many times it’s embarrassing. Give her all the Teen Choice Awards (she deserves more but who are we kidding?) for that moment alone.
This is a movie review so I should probably point out the small flaws in the production value (a bigger budget film may have ironed out some of the lighting and ADR bumps) or that the last act feels slightly rushed or that Josh’s storyline gets a bit lost in it all but none of that mattered because the love story was executed so purely and wonderfully, no one is going to care that there’s an audio flub in the hot tub scene. If you were paying attention to anything else in the hot tub scene but Noah Centineo’s EVERYTHING, please get your pulse checked.
There is no way I can be objective about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I knew I was going to love it before I watched it. I declared it as GREAT based on the trailer alone. I loved Jenny Han’s book DEEP and I’ve rarely met a rom-com I didn’t instantly want to watch again, even the sh-tty ones. Guess how many times I’ve watched this one? And the main reason I can’t be objective about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is because of Peter Kavinsky.
Jenny Han wrote a teenage boy who may not exist but by the end of the movie, you sure as hell believe he does. Lainey texted me (we haven’t stopped texting about it, we have serious problems) that she wanted to go back in time to find her own Peter Kavinsky. I want a Kavinsky of my own right now. Apologies to my life partner and Michael Bae Jordan. Noah Centineo brings a vulnerability and rugged sheepishness to Peter that is so on point, I was squealing so loud throughout I woke up my dog on multiple occasions.
Noah Centineo is about to blow the f-ck up. He’s about to play another teenage rom-com leading man in Netflix’s Sierra Burgess is a Loser. No matter where his career takes him, like Jared Leto, Heath Ledger and Freddie Prinze Jr before him, for a certain generation, Noah Centineo will always be their teenage dream. Between Nick Robinson in Love, Simon and Noah Centineo in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, I’m starting to get jealous of the solid options Gen Z gets to choose from for the objects of their sexual awakenings. If I was a teenager, I’d be trying to figure out how to get a GIF of Noah doing his charming head tilt thing tattooed on my face.
We’ve shouted out Bim Adewunmi before on this site for her excellent writing. This tweet may just be my favourite thing she’s ever written:
current sexual orientation: when peter says 'leggo' to lara jean— Bim Adewunmi (@bimadew) August 19, 2018
There are so many subtle moments like this that you’ll catch on your second or third watch that will bring you so much JOY, you’re going to want to rewind and watch again. For me, one of my favourite scenes is when Lara Jean and Peter are outlining their contract for their fake relationship. Lara Jean tells him he’s going to have to put his hand in her back pocket like in Sixteen Candles. It’s not a coincidence that the rom-com with one of the most overtly racist “Asian” characters in cinema is referenced in this movie. They call out Long Duck Dong for his f-ckery but it’s Lara Jean and her sisters’ presence in this film and the subtle nods to their Korean culture that is the biggest F-CK YOU to the Long Duck Dong punchline.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is quietly revolutionary – it’s not the stereotypical summer blockbuster and its leading lady doesn’t look like her predecessors but its super power is the extraordinary it finds in the ordinary. There are no skyscrapers or sharks or bionic knees, there’s just Lara Jean and Peter and their spine-tingly, heart-melting love story. It’s a love story that stole the summer, our hearts, and my productivity. For at least the next six months I’ll have it on repeat.