To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Review: An Excellent Teenage Rom-Com
The film opens with a young woman, Laura Jean (Lana Condor) walking through a field of long, green grass in a long red dress. As she walks towards a young man, she talks about how she has fallen for the man even though he is to marry her sister. As she begins to smile at the young man, a pillow hits her in the face, and we realize that the young woman has been reading a romance novel.
The person who threw the pillow is Laura Jean’s younger sister, Kitty ( Anna Cathcart) who wants to hang out. Laura Jean promises to join Kitty as soon as she finishes the chapter in her book. We hear a commotion coming from the kitchen and their older sister, Margot (Janel Parrish) appears in the doorway asking Kitty to set the table. As they walk to the kitchen, Kitty remarks to her mom that she hates it when her dad makes Korean food. We see Dad (John Corbett) in the kitchen making dinner. In walks Josh (Israel Broussard), Margot’s boyfriend. In the way that Laura Jean looks at Josh, it’s apparent that she really likes Josh, maybe a little too much.
Dad tries to cut into the overly done meat at the dinner table, much to the amusement of the rest of the table. He is unsuccessful, and Margot takes the slab of what looks like charcoal to the kitchen to use an electric knife on it. As Margot cuts the meat, the rest of the table talk about how Margot is going away to college in Scotland, and they won’t see her until Christmas. They discuss who is going to drive to school now that Margot won’t be living there. Margot brings the meat, now successfully cut up, and Josh brings up that since Margot can’t come home for Thanksgiving, he has bought a plane ticket to go visit her in Scotland. Margot looks shocked and disappointed in the plane ticket. We next see Margot and Josh in the street having a serious discussion, as Laura Jean looks down from her bedroom window. Laura Jean explains that before Josh was Margot’s boyfriend, he was Laura jean’s best friend. We see them as their younger selves as they ride bikes and discuss stupid topics, on which they both agree on. Laura Jean explains that they didn’t stop being friends when Josh and Margot got together, that it was just different, with Laura Jean being including in things like going to the movie, but feeling like a third wheel.
While she didn’t want to steal Josh from Margot, Laura Jean still had feelings for him, so she decided to write him a letter. It’s never going to be sent, it just for Laura Jean, to understand how she is feeling. Laura Jean explains that her letters are her most secret and prized possession. We wee Laura Jean put the letter in a blue hat box. Laura Jean explains that there are four other letters, all to boys in her past that she has had crushes so intense she didn’t know what to do. We see from the box that all the letter are addressed, but the envelopes are not sealed. Little does Laura Jean know, but these letters are soon going to change her life in a big way.
That’s the start to a delightful and funny rom-com reminiscent of the 80s comedies like 16 Candles (which is referenced in the film) and Can’t Buy Me, Love. Laura Jean is a romance book lover who hasn’t ever had a boyfriend, or even been kissed. Besides Josh, she only has one other friend, Chris (Madeleine Arthur), both of which try to avoid the mean kids while hanging out underneath the bleachers. Laura Jean is cute, sweet kid who is just too hung up on her ideas of romance based on the books that she continually devours and profoundly misses her mother who died when she was younger. In a chance encounter, Laura Jean is persuaded by Peter (Noah Centineo), one of the hunks of the school, to pretend date. This will make Peter’s ex-girlfriend (a tormentor of Laura Jean) jealous and will up Laura Jean’s status in the school. It’s an old plot, but it’s done well, with lovely attention to its characters. The film does an outstanding job of making the characters in the movie feel real and rich in detail, helping us understand their motivation.
I enjoyed the whole cast but the two leads, Lena Condor as Laura Jeanas Laura Jean and Noah Centineo as Peter. They have a natural chemistry on screen that makes this film work. I enjoyed the dialogue between the Laura Jean and Peter, as they had a very natural rhythm to their conversations, whether it’s about their favorite movies or plotting their next dating move. Condor is brilliant as the smart, shy teen, making you fall in love with her from her very first scene. Centineo is the surprise here, as he perfectly plays the high school stud that has a good heart but just can’t get over his ex-girlfriend. Centineo has a cool, self-assured presence on screen that makes his character feel like he really is the stud of the high school.
An excellent teenage rom-com is a hard thing to accomplish, but I think you just might put this in rotation with those 80s films.
My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again.
The film is currently on Netflix.