The Kissing Booth movie review: Netflix romcom is weak offering with wrong messaging about adolescent years

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

May 13, 2018 16:40:20 IST


When she was 15 years old, Beth Reekles wrote a novel titled The Kissing Booth. Little did she know that she would land a major publishing deal soon, or that her novel would go on to become a bestseller, or that seven years later, it would find a screen adaptation on Netflix. But despite all the hype and hoopla around the film, it must be said that it presents a rather shallow treatment of a common First World teenage problem.

The Kissing Booth poster.

The Kissing Booth poster.

Sixteen-year-old high school girl Elle Evans is best friends with Lee Flynn – a boy who was born at the exact same time as she was, to a woman who was her mother’s best friend. No wonder then, that Elle and Lee are practically inseparable. They go through their childhood, puberty and pre-teen years hanging out with each other, and Elle can’t think of any other boy in her life, past Lee Flynn. But at an age when most teenage romances begin to bud, she begins to fall for Lee’s elder brother – an alpha-male stud from her school – Noah Flynn, that too, over a strange turn of events at a kissing booth. This upsets Lee, who had set up a rule of ‘no fooling around with each other’s family members’ with his bestie. The rest of the film deals with Elle’s dilemma. Does she answer the call of her love for Noah? Or does she stay loyal to her best friend of sixteen years? Meh.

This is the sort of film which I wouldn’t advise even its target audience – clearly, teenagers – to watch. And that’s simply because its handling of its central subject is so immature that it just doesn’t seem relevant in this day and age. It is perfectly natural for boys and girls of that age to feel confused about their feelings. It is also perfectly alright for them to dwell on those confusions for longer than an adult would. What is not alright is to let those very feelings make a fool out of you, just for the sake of extending the plotline. Maturity is not a by-product of age, it is never a residue. Maturity comes with experiences, most of which begin far too early than we expect them to. This is where the film’s artistic liberty seems to take things too far. It just isn’t intelligent enough, not even intelligent enough for teenagers of today, who are far more aware of themselves and what they want. Compare, for instance, the film’s execution with the sensitive portrayal of the serious subject of teenage pregnancy in director Jason Reitman’s brilliant 2007 film Juno, starring a fantastic Ellen Page. While that film handled such a serious subject so tenderly and with commendable maturity, The Kissing Booth pales in comparison, with all but a superficial take on teenage romance.

I wish I could say that the film was fun to watch, because even the most ‘OMG’ high-school moments were really downright foolish. When it comes to performances, Joey King is over the top throughout the almost 2-hour length of the film as the proud-to-be-confused Elle. Well, full marks for consistency, though. In comparison, Joel Courtney was much more reserved, although he would need years of experience and a lot of hard work to be considered even a decent actor. Jacob Elordi is the ‘star’ of the high school, with his broad jaws, jutting chin, and football player build – but I wish he could be less wooden in the acting department, because he can go only so far based on his looks alone.

Overall, director Vince Marcello’s The Kissing Booth is a rather weak film that sends you several wrong messages about your adolescent years. Worst of all, it commits the cardinal sin of taking its viewers for granted. Which is exactly why viewers – of all ages – can easily give it a miss.

The Kissing Booth is currently streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: May 13, 2018 16:48:04 IST