Fellow scientists, the FYA laboratory has been H-O-P-P-I-N-G, and for the best possible reasons. Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before was already a phenomenal book (and series), and now it's a exceptional movie as well. But don't just take my word; it's SCIENCE. So grab your lab coats and safety goggles, and let's conduct some Highly Scientific Analysis!
(Slight spoilers ahead, unless otherwise stated where there are GIANT spoilers.)
To All the Booze I've Loved Before
No matter what your poison of choice -- Kombucha, Korean yogurt smoothie, or something a liiiiiittle harder -- we've got you covered with a drinking game!
THE OFFICIAL FYA TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE DRINKING GAME
For book readers, take a sip whenever:
• Your heart can't handle how exquisitely perfect this adaptation is
Take a drink whenever:
• there's a scene imagined by Lara Jean
• a scene takes place at the Corner Cafe
• Lara Jean makes a pop culture reference older than her
• Peter says "whoa" in quick and rapid succession
• Peter is exasperated by Lara Jean
Take a shot whenever:
• Lara Jean's letters appear
• Lara Jean reads a bodice ripper
• Lara Jean drives
-- Make it a double when Kitty's wearing her helmet
Finish your drink whenever:
• THERE IS KISSING
To All the Actors I've Loved Before
Lana Condor as Lara Jean
Incredible. Just... everything. This is our winsome, dreamy-eyed Lara Jean Song Covey. (And also further evidence that the X-Men movies have perpetually squandered their amazing cast. Justice for Jubilee!)
Noah Centineo as Peter
For anyone who emerged from this movie immune to Noah Centineo's charm: HOW? I was admittedly worried about anybody trying to capture the magic that is my beloved Peter K, but Younger Better Ruffalo CRUSHED it. (Although for my money, I'd throw in Matthew Daddario as his older brother in the hypothetical Ruffalo-Centineo father-son movie.)
Janel Parrish as Margot
Janel makes like her former Pretty Little Liars costar and Bianca Lawsons up in here.* Margot's a little different than how I imagined (i.e., Korean Janine Kishi), but it's a nice change of pace to see Janel not scheming and snarking like she did on PLL.
*But also keeps my chance of starring in a YA adaptation alive since we're the same age, which I recently described as old enough to be a 16-year-old's teen mom.
Anna Cathcart as Kitty
Kitty, meanwhile, is as rambunctious and feisty as her book counterpart. (And maybe a little more precocious, too.)
John Corbett as Dan
After breaking up with Carrie Bradshaw, Aidan Shaw went into the witness protection program, changed his name and career, and then started a family with a nice Korean lady. (The scary thing is that the timeline almost works, since Carrie ran into Aidan and his baby in 2003 and also he supposedly has 3 kids. Q.E.D. SAME CINEMATIC UNIVERSE.)
Israel Broussard as Josh
The boy next door is appropriately adorkable. (Although I cannot, for the life of me, figure out who he resembles. Any suggestions?)
Madeleine Arthur as Chris
Chris is a delight, but I couldn't help being entranced by THOSE EYES. (So fitting that one of Madeleine's credits is, in fact, Big Eyes.)
Emilija Baranac as Gen
This girl clearly has the sucking-an-imaginary-lemon face DOWN. My lowkey favourite Gen moment is her indignant defense in response to Chris dissing her boots. (And even before I found out about the name similarity, this actress totally looked like a mini Emilia Clarke to me.)
Trezzo Mahoro as Lucas
Look at this cute little face! An underrated aspect of the letters getting out is how they brought Lucas into Lara Jean's tiny social circle. Also, his description of Peter looks at Lara Jean is LOLOLOL.
To All the Reactions I've Loved Before
• First and foremost, major pants -- ALL THE PANTS! -- to Jenny Han for fighting to preserve the story that she wanted to tell. The love and care that went into making this movie is evident in spades; THIS CREW DID THAT. (Jenny also has a cameo in the Titanic dance flashback!)
• During my first watch, I kept mentally stepping back to marvel at how this movie is DOING IT. Like, it is the book, and every scene made my heart so full. (I was on the verge of tears no less than three times, which is a lot for a non-crier like me.)
• With that said: HEY, NETFLIX. WHERE ARE OUR SEQUELS?!?!?
• The Covey girls! (And their covetous long hair!) They've got such believable chemistry as sisters -- and ones that actually like each other.
• Speaking of chemistry: YOWZA. There is just... plenty of it. And it's very, very good.
• The '80s references! (I'm also choosing to believe that one scene is sneakily Breakfast Club-y.) I love how it pays homage to John Hughes' movies while still acknowledging that they were problematic af.
• Did Subway pay for product placement or something? No shame in that game if that's the case, but Chris just seems to really love Subway.
• I recently wrote about the issue of casting not entirely authentically when it comes to race, and the conflicted feelings continue here. Multiracial representation is so rare, and rarer still in lead characters. (Unless it's The Rock, but his movies usually don't care about the nuance of his race.) And, of course, races shouldn't be substituted for one another. But there's quite a difference between casting Lana Condor as half-Korean than, say, Emma Stone as part Chinese and Hawaiian. And Condor's great performance (plus her relatable personal experiences) makes it really hard to argue against her casting.
I don't have a nice tidy solution; striving for better and more representation is an ongoing challenge. But having to confront these issues means that they're even issues in the first place, that lead roles are going to actors who never would have been considered before. Progress can be painful, but it's still progress. Doesn't mean we always have to settle, but doesn't mean we should let perfect be the enemy of good, either. (Or, in this case, the really, really, really good.)
To All the Spoilers I've Loved Before
BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD! Stop here, skip to the very last section ("To All the Conclusions I've Loved Before"), or proceed at your own discretion.
• I can't believe it took Lara Jean saying that Kitty was "way harsh" for me to make the connection that LJ is a virgin who can't drive.
• "I could write you a note every day." You Ryan-Gosling-in-The-Notebook mothercusser, Peter Kavinsky.
• There are way too many swoonworthy moments to highlight, because then it'd just be a play-by-play of all their scenes together, but THE HOT TUB. THE LEG SWING.
• "You gonna break my heart, Covey?" OK, I'LL STOP QUOTING EVERYTHING; YOU GET THE PICTURE.
• These characters have such high school problems, in the best possible way. So much of live-action YA is literal life or death, so it's weirdly refreshing to see teenage characters worry about driving and squabble over being Instagram official aka exactly what they should be doing at that age.
• Also weirdly refreshing is a couple that actually talks and gets to know each other. Which goes with the territory of not being able to rely on physical chemistry to develop the relationship, but it made me realize how often rom-coms will just make characters kiss or have sex as a shortcut.
• I know cringey sex talks are a teen movie staple, but I love that this one was so factual and non-judgmental. HEED HIS WORDS, TEENS.
• OK, who else chortled at Josh's tough guy hoodie? I remember it being more of a fair fight in the book, but the intimidation hoodie definitely did him no favours.
• THAT FINAL SCENE. I had given up on John Ambrose McClaren (the fifth grade Model U.N. crush) appearing, but then OH MY GOD HE DID.
To All the Adaptations I've Loved Before
• Speaking of doing no favours for Lara Jean's other suitors: was John Ambrose McClaren always this dorky??! (Creeping on the actor's Instagram makes slightly less concerned, and this team has obvi earned the benefit of the doubt.)
• Kitty mails the letters to get Lara Jean a boyfriend, as opposed to retaliation for getting teased about her crush on Josh.
• In fact, everyone's a little less in love with Josh. (I found it funny that Movie Lara Jean is so adamant about Josh being off limits, which was not the case in the book.) It's probably for the best that the Josh romance was downplayed to only focus on Peter, because WHO CAN DO ANYTHING ELSE? WHO. CAN.
• So many book shout-outs! I wouldn't have minded if the script could have sneaked in a Gogo or something about the Song girls, but that's what sequels are for. (Also possibly being saved for the future: Jamie Fox-Pickle and Ms. Rothschild.)
• ... even though adapting the sequels means BUMPY ROAD AHEAD. But also MORE LARA JEAN AND PETER.
To All the Conclusions I've Loved Before
So I actually didn't get around to watching this movie until a full two days (i.e., FOREVER) after it was released. In that time, my Twitter feed was an excruciating minefield of everybody flipping shizz over how good it is. That kind of hype... is scary. That kind of hype for the adaptation of a series that you already love SO MUCH is raising expectations in a way that you do not want because omg what if I don't like it?!??! Well, fellow scientists, I'm happy to report that my fears were assuaged and eliminated altogether in the first scene alone. I knew by the big goofy grin it gave me that I had nothing to worry about. (Other than when we're going to get a sequel and also how old Noah Centineo is.) (22, for the record.) To All the Boys I've Loved Before became an instant fave when I first read it as a book, and now it's easily one of the best YA adaptations I've ever seen.
Have y'all watched To All the Boys I've Loved Before yet? (Or, better question: how many times have you watched it by now?) Hit me up with your thoughts in the comments! (Pro-tip: If you'd like to leave a spoiler-y comment, please use spoiler tags! (Instructions here.))
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is now streaming on Netflix. (Go see the shizz out of it!)