When the Netflix film “The Kissing Booth” released on May 11, the entire internet seemed to be going absolutely wild. It felt as if every other tweet on my timeline was a gushy message about how adorable and wonderful “The Kissing Booth” was. Although I love high school rom-coms just as much, if not more, than the average 20-something-year-old college student, I didn’t have much interest in “The Kissing Booth.” Especially after learning that the teen flick is based on a Wattpad novel written by a 15-year-old.
However, after a couple weeks of scrolling past references from the movie I didn’t understand, I decided I needed to stay culturally hip. So, I decided to give in and give “The Kissing Booth” a chance. After a moment’s hesitation and a fleeting hope that the film would pleasantly surprise me, I hit play. By the time the final credits began to scroll across my laptop screen, I had a lot of feelings about the last hour and 45 minutes of my life — none of them good. Every relationship in the supposedly precious film, be it romantic, familial or friendly, was unhealthy. The plot was unrealistic. The characters were idiots. I do not understand why anyone decided “The Kissing Booth” needed to be made into a movie.
I feel no shame in admitting that I have discouraged everyone in my life from watching the toxic teen drama. Instead, I highly recommend everyone watch the following three films on Netflix and forget that “The Kissing Booth” exists.
1. “Alex Strangelove”
Released less than a month after “The Kissing Booth,” the coming-of-age tale “Alex Strangelove” is far more worthy of praise. The film follows the titular Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) as he unravels the truth of his sexuality. Torn between his girlfriend’s wishes to go “all the way” and the intriguing attention from a boy he met at a party, Truelove certainly delves into a number of different issues. The film is humorous and quirky, complete with goofy friends and uncanny comparisons of the animal kingdom and high school.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a totally unproblematic story. There are some relationship dynamics in the film that are rather troubling, such as the failing romance between Truelove and his girlfriend, who doesn’t realize he’s basically using her to convince himself he’s straight.
However, the element that separates dysfunction of the film from that of “The Kissing Booth,” is acknowledging and unpackaging the harmful aspects of the relationships in “Alex Strangelove.” Overall, the movie is an easy watch that authentically explores the complexities of sexuality in high school.
2. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”
Having just dropped on Netflix this August, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (based on a novel of the same name by Jenny Han) is a light-hearted, diverse high school love story, born from the beloved fake dating trope. The movie introduces viewers to Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), a Korean-American girl with a penchant for romantic fantasies.
Whenever she has an intense crush on a boy, she writes him a love letter and then tucks it away in a secret hat box, never to be seen by anyone except her. That is, until all the letters get mysteriously sent out and Covey has to deal with the repercussions.
As a long-time fan of the book trilogy, I was nervous to see how the story would translate into a cinematic sensation, but my worries were for naught. Yes, the romance is predictable and cliché, but it doesn’t matter. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is such a fun, heartwarming experience. The Covey family is warm and loving, the friendships are genuine and the romance will steal your heart. Everything about this flick is wholesome and entertaining, not to mention it’s incredibly important for Asian-American representation in Hollywood.
If you want more of the characters, you can always turn to the books!
3. “Set It Up”
Unlike the previous recommendations, the protagonists in Netflix’s “Set It Up” aren’t teens anymore, but the rom-com is still very much a coming-of-age love story. When the film begins, viewers meet Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell), two overworked assistants with outrageously demanding bosses.
They bond over the fact that their bosses’ workaholic tendencies have taken a toll on their own personal lives. Harper and Charlie devise a plan to set their bosses up so they’ll be less focused on work, which means Harper and Charlie inevitably will have less on their own plates. There is tons of meddling throughout, as well as unwanted feelings on Harper and Charlie’s end.
“Set It Up” is a classic, albeit cliché, romantic comedy, brimming with predictable plotlines and common tropes. But what else do you expect from a solid rom-com? The characters are flawed and relatable. The story is cute, the banter is believable and amusing. Once again, brownie points for including a diverse cast, too!
Romantic comedies tend to be pretty formulaic and cliché, so fans of this genre probably aren’t terribly picky when it comes to what hijinks they want to watch next, but some movies just don’t deserve the attention they get. It’s time to forget about all the ugliness that “The Kissing Booth” delivered and watch the chick flicks that are serving healthy relationships and diverse love stories.