Netflix’s The Kissing Booth is a part of the Cute-But-Uncomfortable canon of teen movies. Bits of it are warm and lovely, other parts make you cringe. And more than once you want to reach through the screen, grab the girl and haul her out of there to give her a good talking-to.
With The Kissing Booth 2 coming out any day now (July 24th), here’s a recap from author Ally Blake and Romance.com.au writer Sarana. * Spoiler alert * for anyone keen enough to dive in to chapter two!
Ally: Elle Evans and Lee Flynn have been BFFs since they were born in the same hospital at the same time on the same day a teenage number of years ago. Together, on screen, they are utterly lovable. Warm, sweet, funny, charming and real. I could have watched an entire movie of them playing Dance Dance Revolution at the local arcade.
Sarana: Having never seen this movie the first time it came out I was instantly struck by how similar the main character Elle is to Rory from Gilmore Girls, and then when we meet Lee he is like a slightly geekier version of Dean.
Ally: A list of rules written when they were six dictates the boundaries of their solid friendship, including Rule #9: Relatives of your best friend are totally off-limits. Sure, Elle has a crush on Lee’s big brother Noah, but all is okay – she’d never break the rules, as Lee is too important to her.
Sarana: As soon as I saw those flashbacks to the list of rules and the number of times Lee’s brother is included in the flashbacks – I knew rule number 9 was out the window!! I’m also hugely disappointed (but not in the least surprised) that the movie has so obviously set her up to break the most important rule, which will result in heartbreak one way or the other.
Ally: So, the Flynn boys. Lee is adorable, and kind, and lovely, and a total cutie-pie. He’s a cracker at fancy dress and loves to dance. And he drives a super-hot Mustang. (Elle, open your eyes girl! #teamlee.) Whereas Noah is your classic older-brother-crush magnet; a football star, all muscles and dumb jockness. He’s also a bit of an arse, really.
Sarana: Mmm, the Flynn boys!! Polar opposites on everything except one thing – wanting to protect Elle. Flynn is the typical geeky best friend. He listens to all her problems, he drives her anywhere she wants, and his hot older brother is pretty much every cliché rolled into one character. He rides a motor bike, he plays football, he is applying for Harvard and he looks good in a wet t-shirt. What else could you want!! Oh wait – he is really rich as well!!
Ally: COOL ASIDE: Molly Ringwald plays Lee and Noah’s LOVELY mum!
Sarana: Molly Ringwald just seems to pop up in all kinds of places as people’s mums and she always has incrediblly hot sons!! Good genes, I guess!!
Ally: The movie starts as Lee and Elle head back to school for their junior (?) year. The school ‘uniform’ is pretty awesome – all lemon yellow and baby blue with a cool loose tie. Though Elle does get a detention for wearing a short skirt (this falls into the cringe section of the sub-genre), the term ‘uniform’ seems rather broad when you consider the variety of takes on the look. But I bet the costume designers had a ball.
Sarana: So being a teen movie the bulk of it does take place at high school and its full of the usual: Popular Girls, Jocks, Nerds, Sporty Types, and the rest. I’m not really sure why Elle seems to be the only one in a uniform.
Ally: The mean girls at school are the OMG girls – Olivia, Mia and Gwyneth. Which is actually pretty clever.
Sarana: I’m not sure why but in teen movies popular girls seem to move in groups of three but never in a ‘one in front, two behind’ formation (or vice versa). It’s always three across, blocking hallways and taking out students left right and centre if you don’t get out of the way, all while looking like they are strutting down the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Olivia, Mia and Gwyneth don’t disappoint. The three girls are momentarily distracted from their ridiculous giant plastic water bottles and bananas (yes, you read that right. Plastic water bottles!!) to focus on Elle’s short skirt. It’s as if a short skirt magically exudes popularity. Likes moths to a flame, the three descend because they just got a whiff of possible coolness so further inspection and interrogation is required, and then as soon as they arrive it’s all over and Elle is left slightly confused and smelling of banana peels.
Ally: Suddenly Elle is getting Boy Attention as she has grown boobs over summer break. (Cute-But-Uncomfortable, remember?) Because this is all new to her, some pick-up lines that actually get a positive response from Elle are ‘When did you get boobs?’ and ‘Looking good, Evans’. She even agrees to date the guy who slapped her on the butt the day she wore a short skirt, but only after he sends her a couple of notes in detention. Not a good start right out of the gate, kiddo.
Sarana: I’m not really sure what Elle looked like before the summer break, but she has changed dramatically enough to make me think there could have been a flat chest, monobrow and poor fashion sense in her past and we are working our way towards a whole lot more teen rom-com clichés: The first one is the gatecrashing a senior party and getting drunk and making a huge fool of herself. Where was Lee during all of this? Not looking out for her in the slightest. He doesn’t even seem to care that Elle has somehow ended up in Noah’s bed in his shirt the next day.
Ally: Then comes the school fair, where Lee and Elle run…the titular Kissing Booth! A lot of kissing between a lot of teens ensues. (Anyone else concerned they might have been sharing more than spit between the entire class?)
Sarana: Finally we come to the part of the movie that gives it its title THE Kissing Booth, and a giant shudder runs through me as I realise it’s basically a COVID-19 social distancing nightmare!! This movie could have shut down all of LA in just one scene.
Ally: A high point, Lee – gorgeous Lee! – gets his first kiss in the kissing booth from a sweetie named Rachel. Instant Girlfriend results. (Don’t get me wrong, she’s a keeper, but anyone else think she’s a little too understanding of his continued BFFness with Elle?)
Sarana: A high point, BRB…
Ally: Elle’s first kiss – in the kissing booth as well – follows. And, first up to the plate is…dun dun dun…Noah Flynn! Heretofore the hot but annoying older brother who fights anyone who looks at anyone else sideways. Instant Fireworks and Best Kiss Ever-ness results. And suddenly Rule #9 is looking real shaky.
Sarana: Elle had wanted Noah to do a stint on the kissing booth but he had other ideas, of course, and suddenly a blindfolded Elle is having her first kiss with Noah without realising it, and this is where the movie turns into one chaotic train wreck after the other!!
Ally: Elle instantly tells Lee about the kiss. (Go Elle!) Lee – darling, clever, sensitive Lee – is concerned, because Noah. But Elle promises nothing more will come of it. Do we believe her? Mmm. Apparently Lee does as he asks her to get a lift home from Mr Fireworks Kiss himself.
Sarana: The rules – let’s see how badly those rules made up by six year olds and followed religiously till now are about to be broken.
• It all begins with a blind kiss and a further kissing session in wet clothes in a gazebo during a rain storm. ‘I am sixteen, going on seventeen’ is playing very loudly in my head right now. Sound of Music forbidden kissing in a gazebo, anyone?
• Also there is one scene where all you see is Noah’s arm and Elle’s face. It was like watching Lord of The Rings whenever the Hobbits were on screen. Noah practically had to fold himself in half just to reach Elle’s mouth!! This film won’t win an award for best cinematography any time soon.
Ally: TIP: When you get caught in a rainstorm on the back of a hot guy’s motorbike, always make sure to pull over near a park with a super romantic gazebo. The kissing booth kiss – which was forgivable – gives way to extra-curricular kissing because Elle has had a crush on Noah forever, and Noah has zero compunction about stepping on his little brother’s heart and has just discovered Elle is a girl. Things are gonna get messy…
Sarana: Let’s talk about one of the absolute worst scenes in the movie. Someone I’m sure is standing off camera with a fireman’s hose aimed at these two on the bike. There is so much unnecessary water going on there.
Ally: A true-blue concern with this flick is Noah’s anger issues. Any chance to fight, he fights. A lot. With fists and no control. His aggression overflows to her when he screams at her to get in the car, banging a fist on the bonnet. When, late in the movie, Elle asks him why he acts thus, Noah tells her he’s ‘just wired that way’. Our girl’s response? ‘You can change.’ To which he smiles and says, ‘You think?’ Oh, honey.
Sarana: Noah at this point starts to exhibit some slightly scary characteristics which Elle calls him on then brushes aside with a oh well you can change. He has a temper and he is only 18 years old and it’s gone unchecked. Enough said.
Ally: When Elle asks to keep their affair secret as Lee cannot know, Noah is totes on board. For his little brother’s sake? Nope. Telling people he has a girlfriend would mess with his reputation as a player. But then we find out he got into Harvard – after being a big dope for much of the film – so all is forgiven!
Sarana: Elle and Noah of course start secretly seeing each other, and I’m sorry but how does Lee not see right through that straightaway? He has been her best friend for how many hundred years and he hasn’t noticed that his brother and best friend are acting suspiciously?
Ally: Elle – rightly – makes a pros–cons list. Cons: he’s a player, he’s controlling, all they do is fight, he rides a motorcycle, her dad’s not on board, and it goes against a promise made to her best friend. Pros: he’s a good kisser and smells yummy.
Sarana: The pros and cons list. Break your best friend’s heart vs date his hot older brother. This is what it really comes down to. Guess what – breaking your best friend’s heart really should trump any other pro she had on that list but then we wouldn’t have a terrible movie to recap. So many poor life decisions in this movie!!!
Ally: When Lee – the utter gem of the story – discovers the secret liaison, in a feat of beautiful sweetness, and believable acting, he tearfully tells Elle that everything always came easily to his big brother. The only thing Lee ever had in his life that Noah didn’t…was her. Oh, the heartbreak! #teamlee
Sarana: I’m actually a little bit annoyed at Lee. Annoyed that he has not been paying the slightest attention to anything going on right under his nose. He is a teenage boy, who was holding on to an ideal that was created as a young kid and he didn’t give himself any room to budge. He could clearly see Elle was in love with Noah and it was only a matter of time before she would be put into a position of having to hurt him, surely on some level he must have suspected that it would happen. Teenage hormones don’t care about unbreakable bonds and 10 year old rules. They cloud judgements and can set people up for lifelong disappointment and this is the only thing this movie got right.
Ally: BUT WAIT, THERE’S PROM! Prom is such an American thing, so maybe I just don’t get it. But the prom in the flick seemed to be the Senior Prom, as there was talk of ‘looking back at memories of our last year together’, and yet Elle and Lee and Rachel and the OMG girls and their entire class – who were not graduating – were there too. Is that normal? Maybe that’s normal.
Sarana: But never fear. Prom is here and I’m half wondering if this will be Lee’s Carrie moment and then I remember it’s a family movie. So I’m sure everything destroyed will be restored. Or will it?
Ally: Things happen, love is declared, love is rejected, apologies are given, apologies are rejected, and finally accepted. And Elle gets the boy. (The wrong boy?) And things are perfect. Till Noah goes away to college. (Phew!)
• ‘Don’t turn back for a final wave,’ Elle says at the airport. ‘That is way too cheesy and romantic.’ And while, for a moment we believe Noah might actually step up and do something sweet…alas.
• Will they last? Can a long-distance romance teen work? Is it a rom-com if there’s no certain Happy Ever After? Or is the fact Noah is now on the other side of the country Elle’s chance at a happy ending after all? We’ll find out, I guess, in The Kissing Booth 2!
Sarana: My lingering thought is how fun recapping The Kissing Booth 2 is going be because Noah and Elle got together IRL after filming this movie and then broke up just before filming part 2. AWKWARD.
Ally: FUN FACT: Noah is eight feet tall and Elle is maybe four. If these two do end up together in Kissing Booth 2, the threat of future neck problems is real.
Other fun fact – the guy that plays Noah is from Brisvegas.
Did I mention #teamlee?
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Ally is a hopeless romantic. She was born into a family of romance reading women and remembers bag loads of books being passed on at family gatherings from her mother, her cousins, her aunt and even her grandmother. Now as a grown up she gets to sit at the laptop, with a title, a couple of beautiful characters in mind and wait for the fairies to take flight. Constant coffee and bowls full of M&Ms make her job that much more pleasurable! Come visit her at www.allyblake.com
Featured image credit: Netflix
Written by Sarana Behan & Ally Blake