I have an aversion to teenage romantic comedies. Maybe it’s the over-the-top campiness, the cliche breakup lines or the dialogue clearly written by a middle-aged man who consistently mutters, “Is that what the kids say these days?”
Maybe it’s the realist in me revolting against the happily ever after’s. Lame outcast undergoes #transformationTuesday, becomes the hot It girl, and lands the most popular guy in school. I never bought it, though—it was clear she was hot to begin with.
Or maybe, upon further reflection, I never liked teen rom-coms because I never thought it was too far in the realm of fantasy for me to suspend my disbelief. I never believed that I could have the stupidly perfect ending of chick flicks… until now.
I can’t recall the last teen movie with an Asian female romantic lead character. Seeing Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey on the big screen was personally empowering. It’s a role that doesn’t hinge on putting her “Asianness” front and center, but rather embraces her culture as day-to-day life. The smallest details — like the characters drinking Yakult (an Asian favorite) or using Korean face masks—were what made me feel like I was seen and validated.
This movie features an Asian American girl experiencing the cutesy story lived by hundreds of white female characters. This movie tells young Asian Americans that they are not the supporting characters, but rather front-and-center protagonists with the autonomy to chase their dreams, whether it’s pursuing a high-profile career in the arts or that cute boy in biology class.
Not only do I have renewed hope in my own fairytale adventures, but also in the coming-of-age comedy genre itself. Though the arc is fairly predictable, “TATB” is so genuinely endearing in its wholesomeness that the viewer can’t help but be sucked into the story. Not to say that the movie isn’t fresh.
The dialogue is filled with bombshell truths and sassy one-liners (often delivered by the bright young Anna Cathcart, who plays Lara Jean’s little sister), and the tight editing makes for perfect pacing. The two lead actors (Condor along with “The Fosters’” Noah Centineo) capture teen angst and comedy without ever going over the top, and the supporting cast shines even in their smaller moments (most notably, John Corbett as LJ’s father).
Ultimately, “TATB” is a movie that defines what feel-good can and should be. It’s a movie I know I’ll be watching with my girlfriends at many sleepovers to come (yes, we’re college students). Lara Jean said it best, “I realized I wasn’t as invisible as I thought.” “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a movie that, without even trying, affirms and validates different aspects of identity and coming-of-age. It’s a movie that says, I am here, a movie for the invisible no longer.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” will release on Netflix on August 17, 2018.