*Please note: This blog post was written a while ago. My thoughts, opinions, and writing skills have changed since then. Any posts written before 2020 should be assumed to not fully reflect my current thoughts, opinions, and writing capabilities unless otherwise stated. If you would like clarification on my thoughts/opinions about any specific points mentioned in this post, feel free to reach out to me.*
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is your typical feel-good rom-com, complete with high-schoolers, fake-dating, and misunderstood feelings. Your cast of characters includes the shy girl who comes out of her shell due to the popular boy, who has always harbored a bit of feelings for her. You’ve got the mean, popular girl, whom the audience hates. In the background you have the trusty, rebellious best friend and the childhood sweetheart–the “boy next door.” There’s the comedic little sister and the wise older sister. In a lot of ways To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is your typical rom-com, but in a lot of ways it’s not.
When Jenny Han first announced that her popular novel would be turning into a movie, I was ecstatic. The TATBILB trilogy is among my favorite YA novels of all time–I’ve read each countless times, and they were a changing force in the books I read and even how I write. So when I discovered I’d be able to see the story come to life onscreen, my expectations were sky-high.
I woke up early on August 17 just so I could watch the movie before dropping my brother off at college. As I logged into Netflix where the movie had been saved into My List for months, I could actually feel my heart pounding. I was feeling a cocktail of emotions–joy, anticipation, excitement, but also trepidation, that the movie would ruin my image of the book a little bit.
When you hold something so close to your heart as I did–I do–To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it always causes a little anxiety to let someone tamper with that. In some ways, having a movie could make the whole experience better, but in some ways it could also go horribly wrong.
In the end, it was somewhere in the middle.
I enjoyed the movie, I certainly did, but…it just wasn’t the book, you know?
I think alone, as a movie, as a rom-com it is executed very well. I loved the costumes, the colors, the sets, the cinematography, the acting, the story…by itself. But to me, it didn’t capture the essence of the book–at least, not to my expectations (which, I admit, are always a little high).
The first time I watched the movie, I couldn’t enjoy it fully, because I was comparing everything to the novel. For a second, as I watched the first scene play out with Lara Jean and Josh in a field, I thought I’d clicked on the wrong thing. I could not remember this scene ever happening. That was the first thing that was different, but certainly not the last. They changed plot points, settings, scenes, Peter’s car, and even characters’ names (which was one change I really could not understand).
Let’s start with the casting. Lana Condor was great at playing Lara Jean. I could accept her as our protagonist, even though when reading the novels I always imagined her as Helen Chin, who is the model for Lara Jean on the covers of the books. Then we’ve got Noah Centineo, who honestly, looked nothing like how I imagine Peter. But, like the rest of the world, I too adore his face, so it was kind of okay. His acting of the character was pretty spot-on. Israel Broussard also did not fit my image of Josh, and the castings for Genevieve and Chris were eh. Those I could all accept, though. The only casting that I had a huge problem with was Janel Parrish as Margot. Now, Janel is a great actress, but she does NOT fit the role at all. First off, she is almost 30 years old while Margot is only supposed to be 18, and she looks much too old for the role. Also, Janel just doesn’t look like Margot. Janel’s mother is of Chinese descent, and it’s great to have someone who is actually Asian for the role. However, Margot is half-Korean, half-white, and the book describes both her and Lara Jean looking more like the Song side of the family. Honestly, I wish the producers had looked harder for someone who could fit the role better. I’m sure there’s many great Korean/Korean-white actresses out there, who could play Margot. That would really bring more representation into industry, finding new Asian actors instead of ones that everyone knows. One casting I did love, though, was Anna Cathcart as Kitty. She just fits the bill perfectly, with her brown hair and adorable face. And her portrayal of Kitty was amazing, the one character whose book to movie transition I had no problems with.
Another addition to the movie that I really enjoyed was The Scrunchie. It added another dimension of drama that actually improved the story. It held a lot of symbolism, and showed the viewers Gen’s hold over Peter–which, I admit, is harder to portray through film than through words. So the producers did a great job with that.
Some more changes I didn’t enjoy: Um…the kiss? It happened COMPLETELY differently in the book. I’m glad Lana and Noah have talked about trying to change it, because it shows that they didn’t just change it without reason. Also, I really didn’t like Daddy’s characterization. He was made out to be this loud, teasing guy which didn’t fit with how he is portrayed in the book. I did, however, like the scene with him and Lara Jean in the diner–which wasn’t in the novel, but was a really sweet addition.
Those are the main things I disliked. Also, there were a lot of scenes they took out that I’d’ve liked to seen–the estate sale, Halloween, and the recital party, to name a few.
Also, the end-credits scene with John Ambrose McClaren…can we talk about that for a second? If they’re doing that with the intention to create a sequel movie (which, I don’t know if they are) then HOW WOULD THAT WORK??? I don’t even know if I want them to turn P.S. I Still Love You into a movie, but if they do it’s already ruined, because they won’t have the whole pen-pal thing between Lara Jean and John Ambrose McClaren. Also, he’s all dressed up with flowers, obviously meaning to make some romantic declaration. But that’s not what happens in the book!!! It’s going to make some cheap love triangle, which yes, the novel does have, but it’s much more complicated.
Okay, deep breath. I need to not think about that problem until we get there.
I rewatched the movie a few weeks after it came out, and the second time, I enjoyed it a lot more. I was able to go into it without expectations, and I looked at it through an objective lens of seeing it as a movie, and not as an adaptation of the book. It really is a good movie, and I’m glad it’s gotten such widespread attention. I wonder if it will come to be considered a classic rom-com.
Overall, I’d give the movie a 3.5/5 rating. If you want to read my book reviews of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You (I still need to get on reviewing Always and Forever, Lara Jean) you can click here. What did you guys think of the movie? Let me know in the comments below!