August 21, 2018

VIEW | 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' Crushes on Netflix

Lana Condor Noah Centineo Jenny Han Susan Johnson | Netfix To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Netflix's latest teen-centric romantic comedy, based Jenny Han's popular young adult novel stars Vietnamese-American actress Lana Condor as your typical lovelorn teenager in a sweetly told, savvy tale of fantasy romance.

The film revolves around Lara Jean Covey, a shy, lonely girl, and the consequences of her secret love letters accidentally being sent out to all her of previous school-age crushes. Susan Johnson directs the relatively straightforward high school flick with enough style to always hold our interest.

Condor is an instant star with an affable, specific yet identifiable every girl quality that screams an undeniable adorableness. Her Lara Jean, a Korean-American junior in high school, is grounded but conflicted and shows a real amalgamation of juggling priorities. It's a rare and earnest portrayal of a female protagonist we rarely get to see very often without her mixed ethnicity ever being mentioned.

Surrounded by an able cast of young actors, Janel Parrish—clearly, ten years too old to play a college freshmam—and Anna Cathcart as Lara Jean's older and younger sister create a loving portrait of biracial siblings. It is, however, a little strange how the "sisters" look nothing alike. Cathcart is cute and troublesome and mostly steals her scenes with zeal.

Lana Condor Noah Centineo Jenny Han Susan Johnson | Netfix To All The Boys I've Loved Before

As for the main love interest, Noah Centineo's fake boyfriend to Lara Jean, Peter Kavinsky, is a real charmer as their chemistry slowly sizzles and escalates. However, I did find it initially hard not to mix him up with her next-door neighbour and sister's boyfriend (Israel Broussard), Josh, whom Lara Jean also once crushed on.

Shot with verve by cinematographer Michael Fimognari, there's an appropriate candy quality to the film's visual sense. While endlessly watching and charming, Sofia Alvarez's script suffers from the usual setups and hurdles while still celebrating many teen movie tropes.

There a few expected young adult contrivances while Laura Jean never seems to really wonder how her love letters were (seemingly magically) sent out despite there being only one logical culprit. Nonetheless, its twists on typical teen rom-com beats are mostly welcome.

What To All the Boys really nails are the intricacies and complexities of teenage emotions. How it treats adolescent female Asian-American characters so universally is a real treat including namechecking previous less than flattering portrayals in seminal John Hughes' films. It uses the standard fake relationship premise to mine some savoury throwback teenage romantic material.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before is available for streaming now on Netflix.


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