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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I [Don’t Really] Love You [Anymore]

| Monday, February 17, 2020

Lina Domenella | The Observer

Netflix released its film adaptation of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You,” based off of the second book in Jenny Han’s teen romance trilogy on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

In piggybacking off of the Valentine’s Day marketing and the success of the first film, the second film fell short of expectations. As an avid reader of the series, I felt as if the second book was the best of the three, but, unfortunately, that did not translate onto the screen.

The key lies in the details. Movie adaptations from books are always tricky because good parts are bound to get cut in the interest of time. The first movie got away with these omissions, but one of the reasons that “P.S. I Still Love You,” fell flat was because it couldn’t build off of important plot points that were left out of its predecessor.

For example, the necklace that Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) gives Lara Jean (Lana Condor) on the track in the spot where it all began was originally spotted by Lara Jean at a garage sale that she and Peter drove to for his mom’s furniture business in the books. None of that shows up in either of the films, and including that scene would have strengthened both movies in retrospect.

This installment in the series also felt super awkward. I understand it coming from the fact that Lara Jean and Kavinsky are dating for real, in the sense that it would feel more serious and scary, but the awkward shyness of a budding relationship usually doesn’t last long, leading to fights or pervading through the TV screen to make the viewers feel awkward themselves. Mainly, I just felt a lot of second-hand embarrassment.

I’m also disappointed with the lack of development they gave to John Ambrose McClaren. Jordan Fisher himself did a great job in bringing the character to life, and though there will always be the argument that he does not match Han’s description of McClaren in the books, those details get swallowed up in the rushed pace of the film. And, as we learn from Peter’s character development, character matters way more than looks.

Fisher’s McClaren has some real class. When I read the books, I was unashamedly #TeamJohn, and after watching the movie, I stand by my support of #TeamJohn. One thing that didn’t carry over from the books to the movie was the nicknames that he and Peter received as a result of being best friends and rivals at the same time. My favorite was their comparison to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

While the book’s climax gathered all of the suspense to a peak at The Star Ball, the film’s climax arrived hastily and too early at Lara Jean’s fight with Peter before one of his Lacrosse games. The Star Ball then followed as part of the descending plot, ending too easily with Lara Jean getting action with both boys.

Two scenes in the film epically flopped. The first occurs right after Lara Jean breaks up with Peter in a beautifully heartbreaking aquarium scene by offering for him to take the necklace back. “Moral of the Story” by Ashe accompanied the post-breakup shock and sadness, which was fine until Lana Condor started mouthing the words to it with the camera lens only focused on her as she walked through the hallways of school. The other cringey scene occurs at the end of the film once all was well again and Lara Jean and Peter had gotten back together. A make out scene is fine at the end of a movie, but a couple making out being elevated on some sort of platform to make it look like they are taking off from the ground and flying above their neighborhood. Again, certain techniques just weren’t necessary in these pivotal scenes that were possibly the most paid-attention to.

There were a few things that the film did well — and maybe even better than the first film. I, for one, was happy to see Lara Jean’s love of baking make a stronger appearance this time, because I felt like we didn’t get to see that in the first film although it shows up all over the books — along with her hobby of scrapbooking that doesn’t appear at all. It was also fun to see author Jenny Han in another cameo appearance at Adler High on Valentine’s Day. Stormy eased a lot of the tension with her wisdom from experience, and the moment she pulls out the teal dress for Lara Jean, later telling her to keep it, seals her as my favorite character in the film.

The aesthetically pleasing color schemes and setting also anchored some of the less desirable parts of the film. The Valentine’s Day decorations at Adler High were a nice touch. The aquarium scene deserves praise for its color tones matching the mood. The silhouetted figures of Peter and Lara Jean interacting in front of a tank of drifting jellyfish is both so pretty and so sad at the same time.

The soundtrack, while comprised of mostly unfamiliar songs like in the first film, has potential to grow on listeners if they give it a chance. “About Love” by MARINA in particular would make for a good radio jam because of its poppy sound and catchy lyrics. The fact that it was made originally for this film adds respectability. The songs contain just the right balance of dreamy romance and powerful sound to serve as good background and transitions while also strengthening the mood of each scene.

Ultimately, I think the adaptation tried to squeeze too many plot points and subplots in by merely addressing them, but not developing them in depth. As a result, the film simply abbreviated the book, sort of like a visual SparkNotes. If the franchise is already going downhill mid-series, then film number three should be interesting — especially with college looming around the corner.

Film: “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You’’

Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher

Where to Watch: Netflix

If You Like: “Let It Snow,’’ “The Fault in Our Stars,’’ “Five Feet Apart’’

Shamrocks: 2/5

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