It’s been a few days since P.S. I Still Love You came out on Netflix. I have seen it twice and I have thoughts.
To remind you all – I’m obsessed with To All the Boys I Loved Before. I’ve read all the books. I inhaled the first movie as soon as it came out. I promptly followed every cast member on Instagram. I am in love with Jenny Han’s twitter.
I have re-watched the first movie countless times to the point where I could probably recite the entire movie upon request.
To All the Boys I Loved Before was the perfect movie for so so many reasons.
But P.S. I don’t still love you.
Let’s set the stage. I’m currently working on a reality show where I’m the den parent for our teenage cast. Last week, we hosted a two-viewing party – showing the first movie to get everyone up to speed, then watched P.S on the second night.
So I’m watching these movies about 16 year olds with a group of 14/15 year olds and when I’m not watching the movie, I’m walking around the house every 10ish minutes to make sure our resident Peter Kavinsky isn’t waiting in the hot tub (that we actually have) for his own ‘ski trip moment’.
Watching my teens watch the movies is half the fun and there was a noticeable difference in the way the group reacted to the two movies.
TATBILB is about falling in love, while PSISLY is about keeping it. Falling is a much better fairy tale and a much more entrancing story. As Lara Jean falls in love with Peter, we fall in love with Peter. As Lara Jean gets confused – we get confused and frankly, I don’t like being confused about Peter Kavinsky and neither did the teens.
They were SCREAMING at the TV ‘PICK PETER’ – they were so upset that he wasn’t shining in the way he deserves.
They want Lara Jean to be with Peter because they want to be with Peter – but here comes the first reason that I didn’t love this movie as much as the first. Noah Centenio is no longer the internet boyfriend of our dreams.
After that first movie, I was in love. Then he picked project after project that tainted his brand. His weird interviews and ‘deep thoughts’ on twitter did not help. Sure – he was at the top of the mountain and it’s easy to slip from up there, but buddy – get yourself into an indie father-son Oscar bait project with Mark Ruffalo and let’s fix your brand.
Watching PSISLY it was very hard to see Peter Kavinsky and not Noah Centenio (and all his mistakes). This is harsh – but time for some tough love baby. You are better than the shit you’ve made recently, so get it together and get a better hair cut.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer into Noah Centenio, but I really wanted better for John Ambrose McClaren.
First off – I’m peeved about the re-cast and apparent amnesia from movie one. I love Jordan Fisher and he is a very good John Ambrose. It’s not that I don’t want him to be John Ambrose, I just wish they knew the direction that they were going with this character when they filmed the first movie. When they first showed us ‘John Ambrose from Model UN’ – they set up what this character was going to look like based on the books’s description of him being ‘blonde’. So they picked some random local Vancouver based actor to smile and look blonde (and TBH Jordan Burtchett does a great job smiling and looking blonde). But we knew this character was going to be MASSIVE in the 2nd movie if it was going to go well so they should have cast a strong actor (like a Jordan Fisher) from day one. It almost feels like they didn’t have faith in their own movie’s success – or faith in Burtchett which is also harsh.
Plus, we’ve erased from the timeline the moment when teen John Ambrose shows up at her house during the end credits. In PSISLY, when she gets a letter from him it’s the first time he’s contacted her -but really he showed up at her house. This is a weird continuity thing and makes it seem like John Ambrose from movie one doesn’t exist at all.
Secondly – as I said, I love Jordan Fisher and he is a very good John Ambrose. I’m peeved the movie didn’t let us fall in love with John Ambrose more. The book version of John Ambrose is phenomenal. He’s Stormy’s grandson (not mentioned in the movie), he dresses up as a WWII soldier for the dance (he does wear a nice suit, but it’s not as charming), and we really don’t give this character room to breath. I want MORE John Ambrose. Give me reasons to start a #teamJohnAmbrose.
The teens want this too! Take this little exchange during the movie:
Teen 1: “Why is she talking to John Ambrose”
Teen 2: “Cause he’s wonderful…”
Teen 1: ‘What”
Teen 2: *says nothing. looks embarrassed*
Teen 1: “HOW CAN YOU LIKE JOHN AMBROSE OVER PETER?!”
Teen 2: “I DON’T KNOW! BUT I DO!”
Give the teens what they want! Give us more piano moments and boys to fall in love with during the movies.
Or at the very least – let us fall in love with John Ambrose and enjoy that for more than 30 seconds before you make LJ turn right around and get back with Kavinsky again. The yo-yo doesn’t work because I can’t believe that LJ would yo-yo that easily.
At the heart of this whole franchise is Lara Jean Covey. Watching the teens watch her you can see how much of a role model/idol/inspiration/etc LJ is to them. My girls see themselves in Lara Jean Covey – as many of us do.
I get this character, LJ is relatable. I like how she stress bakes, enjoys spending time with her family, and how she overthinks everything. She feels like someone I know and not a fake movie character. LJ could exist in the real world.
Her stress about Peter’s past relationships is so accurate.
This scene feels like it’s straight out of my teen brain:
LJ’s internal monologues make the movie and pull you into her world showing you her perspective. Anytime an ‘imaginary’ person shows up to talk to her – it’s gold.
You get those gold nuggets when this movie moves slowly and LJ shows her vulnerability. The scene at the piano, the chat between Gen/LJ in the treehouse, the car chat, the necklace moment at the aquarium etc. The movie doesn’t work when we jump to the next thing.
I’m going to go ahead and blame this on the change in Director.
TATBILB was directed by Susan Johnson. PSISLY was directed by TATBILB’s Director of Photography Michael Fimognari and it shows.
From a visual standpoint – Fimognari nails it.
The production design/cinematography is still fire. It is such a visually appealing movie. The overall aesthetics is phenomenal. I want Lara Jean’s wardrobe. I want her room. I want to live in the seniors home. I want to eat all the food so wonderfully styled in this film.
I love the framing of all the shots, the soft lighting, the overall ‘softness’ of the film. It is clearly a film made by someone who focuses on the visuals.
But I miss Johnson’s storytelling. She took the original source material from Han and elevated it. Fimognari is missing that magic.
It’s a story from the point of view of a teen girl and I can’t help but wonder if “Mr. Man” (as Kitty would say) doesn’t get what that experience is like in the way that Johnson would as a female director.
Overall – I’m worried about movie three, Always and Forever Lara Jean.
Books one and two in the LJ trilogy were interesting, engaging and well written. But book three is a bit of a disaster (mostly because I hated where LJ’s story goes) and I’m nervous that if movie two was lackluster – movie three without the strong story will be a complete miss.
Will I watch Always and Forever – absolutely, but TATBILB will always and forever be my number one.
To All the Boys I loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You is streaming on Netflix.