I don't wanna go after such an easy target, I really don't.
We all know by now it's based on a Wattpad story and the author was fifteen at the time she wrote it. So part of me feels I should cut it some slack; especially since I myself wrote some cringe-worthy teen romance stories at fifteen too. But bear in mind, adults adapted this into a movie. Adults who should have a better grasp on how relationships actually work. So that's why I'm pushing my guilt aside to critique this film. Not to mention how incredibly sexist it is.
This Netflix original movie feels like someone took a bunch of elements from other successful teen flicks, put them in a blender, and then strained out all the factors that made the original movies good. Former teen star Molly Ringwald even has a part in the film, but even her charm can't save it. It's a cookie cutter, cliched mess. But this movie still somehow sucks impressionable young girls into believing it's good.
The film follows Elle and Lee, born on the same day and "raised like twins". They have a list of rules they made as kids and for whatever reason, still follow as teenagers. One of the rules being they can't date one another's relatives. But Elle has always had a crush on Lee's older brother, Noah.
And that's one of the first problems I have with the film, the useless fillers. The first one being this friendship list. If you took it out of the film and just left it at Lee being uncomfortable with Elle liking Noah, you wouldn't lose much. But I guess it adds in the whole "forbidden love" factor. *groans*
In one of the opening scenes, Elle and Lee are hanging out by the pool, when Noah comes over and says to Elle, "When did you get the boobs?" And that is our first example of problematic sexual harassment that runs rampant in this movie. I hate to sound like a feminazi, but seriously? If a guy I had a crush on said that to me, all my feelings would come to a screeching halt right there.
(And even at 15 my writing wasn't this sexist. In one of my fanfictions from that time, I had a female OC punch a guy who forces a kiss on her)
Also, I'll add in now yet another cliche trope, Noah is the "bad boy" type. Because wearing a leather jacket, driving a motorcycle, and having anger issues is not only rebellious but enough to have a well-rounded character, right?
But the outdated sexist behavior doesn't stop there. On the first day back at school, Elle is forced to wear a skirt she's outgrown, and is faced with unwanted catcalls as soon as she steps on school grounds.
One guy named Tuppen slaps her on the butt. Lee is about to fight him when Noah steps in. It's passed off as him trying to "protect" her, but really, as we see more throughout the rest of the movie, he views her as his property.
It only gets worse.
While waiting for the principal, Noah tells Elle "she was asking for it". Really? That's practically the slogan for rape culture. Noah then acknowledges girls are not objects to be played with, but later ends being just as bad (More on that soon).
So Tuppen ends up asking Elle out. For whatever reason, she says yes. What is with this girl and be attracted to guys who sexually harass her? He ultimately stands her up because Noah threatens him. Again, he's viewing Elle as his property. Even if Butt-Touch Guy isn't the best choice, he's still trying to control who Elle dates; a decision that should only be hers. The whole situation is ludicrous.
At a party, Elle gets drunk and starts to do a striptease, but Noah once again comes to her rescue. He gives her his shirt to wear and lets her sleep in his bed while he sleeps in the guest room. Seems nice right? Nope, he has to screw with her some more.
The next morning when she asks for her shorts back, he refuses. This ends with them somehow getting caught in his drapes, rolling around on the floor, and Elle accidentally touching his genitals. And then as she leaves, Noah demands his shirt back. Once it's halfway off her head and his breasts are exposed he says he's only kidding. And he laughs through everything.
You see what I mean by him being just as bad as Tuppen? This whole scene is supposed to be comedic, but it ends up making me uncomfortable.
There's some filler with Elle suddenly being accepted by a group of popular girls who she calls the OMG girls. Basically, it's all just this film's poorly done copy of the Plastics and Cady. But the story arc isn't even finished at the end. The OMG girls kinda just evaporate or something.
The OMG girls, Lee, and Elle end up running a kissing booth for the school's carnival. Elle's upset she's never been kissed before, which I can understand why she is. But to set up a kissing booth just so you can have it doesn't really seem like the best idea.
Elle has her first kiss with Noah, (shocker) but it is the most confusing scene ever. A terrible poppy song starts playing, the camera does the Carrie spin, kids watching actually cheer. I can't tell if this is all actually happening or if it's just Elle's imagination.
Elle tells Lee she kissed his brother and his response is, "Just don't end up grinding coochies with my brother or I'll literally never talk to you again." Okay, we have two problems here. One, this film's poor excuse for trying to have some teen lingo that no teenager actually says (There are plenty more examples) and now Lee also trying to control Elle. Seriously, who is Noah and Lee's father? Charlie Sheen? Leave this girl alone.
But of course, Elle does end up "grinding coochies" with Noah. And only a few days later no less. Elle went from never having a boyfriend, let alone been kissed, a few scenes ago. But now she's ready to make the leap into being sexually active? Also having sex doesn't mean you're magically in love now like this movie seems to believe.
There's more filler, set to a montage no less, of their relationship. You get all the typical cliches of them kissing in the rain, riding bikes, and trying to hide their relationship from Lee. There are some awkward excuses for comedy when he almost catches them but doesn't, you know the drill.
Of course, Lee does end up finding out. He and Noah have a huge altercation in front of Elle, and then Lee goes onto emotionally manipulate Elle into feeling guilty and she breaks up with Noah. I really, really don't understand how anyone would see this as okay. I can understand why Lee would be upset about Elle dating his brother, but to try and guilt trip her is completely manipulative.
They make up a scene later and Lee even lets Elle tag along with him and his new girlfriend to prom. Which confuses me. Why is Lee so territorial over Elle when he doesn't even seem to like her romantically? I guess it's the film's way of trying to be different by not having the best friend be in love with the girl. But all it does is just make Lee come off even more of a control freak and shitty friend.
On their birthday, Lee is finally okay with Elle and Noah dating. They go to look for Noah, and Elle thinks she's in the car with Lee. It turns out to be Noah wearing Lee's costume, but I have one problem with this. Noah is huge, like way too buff for any teenage boy. Lee looks more realistic, but there's no way you could mistake him for Noah. This was an excuse for a romantic scene that could've worked if they actually hired actors with the same build.
Noah and Elle date but he leaves to go to Harvard. How did this boy get into Harvard when he was busy sexually harassing an impressionable girl his whole senior year? So you don't have that cliched ending them being "together forever," but Elle does say Noah will always have a piece of her heart. Girl why?
There's really only one nice thing I can say about this movie, and that's Joey King and Joel Courtney are likable. But even then they don't give good performances. I can't speak for Joey, but I remember Joel from Super 8 and he was pretty good. And since no one in this movie gives a good performance I would have to pin it on bad directing.
And that's one of the many things wrong with the movie filmmaking wise. Bad writing, way too many filler scenes/storylines, overuse of Elle's narration (A big sign a book-to-movie adaption is bad), and all the tired cliches that don't even fit with today's time period. There are plenty of teen flicks that use similar storylines but do it well. Pretty in Pink, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, and a bunch more. What makes those films so memorable is all the talent and effort that went into making them, something this movie lacks.
Elle is not a strong female character, I hate to say it but it's the truth. Her only goal is to get into bed with her best friend's brother, that's all. She constantly has boys taking advantage of her and she very rarely sticks up for herself. She's a blank slate with little personality. She has no real arc, she's the same at the end as she was in the beginning. Now she just has Noah's motorcycle. There's plenty of other teenage girl characters like Kat Stratford or Olive Penderghast who not only are strong girls with distinct personalities but also have great development throughout their movies. Those are the kinda characters young girls should look up to.
The whole movie revolves around Elle and Noah's relationship, but they have no chemistry. I just can't believe their relationship. Supposedly, Joey King and Jacob Eldori are now dating, but with the way they are onscreen, I can't help but suspect it's a publicity stunt.
And I really could go on more about all the sexism that happens. I know I've been bringing it up a lot, but it concerns me. Pre-teen and teenage girls are watching this movie and thinking it's romantic. When going back and watching clips on YouTube, I saw numerous young girls commenting thinking they were cute, but it's not. The relationship between Elle and Noah is toxic and reminds me of Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey.
I understand the author was young when writing this. At 15, I didn't know much about relationships either. But from what I remember, I used movies like Titanic for guidance, but with Jack and Rose. Noah and Elle's relationship plays out like Rose and Cal's. And I know from experience and by witnessing people I'm close to going through it too, toxic relationships are far from fun, let alone romantic. Sure a few sweet moments may be thrown in, but it doesn't make up for the state of distress or confusion you're always in. Noah and Elle are not the example young girls should be looking up to.
To summarize, this is not only poorly made but doesn't send a good message. Odds are, it will either fade by the end of the year, or the popularity of it will be milked for all it's got. I'm sincerely hoping it's the first one.