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When To All Boys I’ve Loved Before dropped on Netflix in the summer of 2018, it just happened to be the same weekend Crazy Rich Asians began its journey breaking the first rom-com box office record in almost a decade. The genre was back in a big way. The familiar formula was still intact, but executed gracefully enough for audiences to really latch on to a leading woman’s story of romance again. Sadly, with its sequel, Michael Fimognaris' To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, a much more tiresome tradition of the genre has now made its return as well.
What happened to all our favorite on-screen teens continues in the film. Rory Gilmore, Katniss Everdeen… heck even Twilight’s Bella Swan. Remember the tiring “Team This" or "Team That" question? This will seemingly be alive and well thanks to the release of the To All The Boys sequel. Fans of the books will have seen it coming, surely: it's the classic and overdone love triangle.
Living inside Lara Jean’s head again is a delight.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before had Lara Jean (Lana Condor) teaming up with Mr. Popular Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) to fool her entire student body into thinking they’re dating so she could avoid the accidental recipient of her love letters: her older sister’s ex boyfriend, Josh (Israel Broussard). Of course, the twist wasn’t much of a “twist”. Loner Lara Jean ended up confessing her love to it-boy Peter Kavinsky on the field at the end. Even so, taking this quirky journey with Condor and Centineo’s characters was a treat through and through.
Quite a bit of the first film’s magic is still present here for P.S. I Still Love You, but what was rough around the edges in the original is filed down to a kind of “Instagram aesthetic” filter of its teen world. Lara Jean is even more polished and well-dressed, and when she resorts to her therapeutic hobby of baking, there isn’t anymore flour on her cheek. Suddenly, the audience is watching a high-production value cooking tutorial. Fine, it's a bigger budget. We get it.
But, thankfully, even with her false eyelashes and such Lara Jean is Lara Jean. Audiences get to peer into her thoughts once again as her and Kavinsky jump into being in a relationship for real (as real as it is for high school anyway). The character's journey delves into insecurities that come with being a girlfriend for the first time. Something that’s always been refreshing about the protagonist is how straightforward she is about being new to dating and P.S. I Still Love You doesn’t forget this about her.
Jordan Fisher’s charm is enough to have a new wave of teens say, "Noah Centineo, who?"
The inciting circumstance that disrupts Lara Jean and Peter’s honeymoon phase is when another one of the letters from her past come back to bite her. Her childhood crush, John Ambrose McClaren – played by Jordan Fisher, a former Disney star, Hamilton cast member, and singer – writes Lara Jea back, and once again she must face her innermost feelings being on the line. She and John used to sit in a treehouse and read Harry Potter together. He plays the piano. [Cue the distant squeals] He’s the complete opposite of her jock boyfriend, and it generates the aforementioned teen trope problem.
Jordan Fisher is the P.S. I Still Love You scene-stealer. He encourages another side to Lara Jean and it has her questioning everything about her blooming relationship with Kavinsky. Their story is heartwarming and props to the filmmakers here – they know what will get their target audience hooting and hollering. Love triangles are entertaining and Lara Jean’s is as innocent and pure as they come. Going along with her as she weighs the odds makes for some fun, but wow does Noah Centineo’s appeal take a blow thanks to Fisher’s presence here.
Ultimately, To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is a predictable sequel that faces the problems you’d expect.
In a way, these love triangle tropes speak to the often temporary value of falling in love as a teen. However, when a movie like P.S. I Still Love You follows the phenomenon of To All Boys I’ve Loved Before, it undercuts the magic of the original. After being swept off our feet, we start to clear our heads and the appeal of Peter and LJ starts to look a lot less adorable than before.
Fans of the original movie, of course, should see P.S. I Still Love You. It’s a funny and heartwarming follow-up to All The Boys I Loved Before, but yes, it’s also second best, and doesn’t elevate the first movie. It’s a decent-enough high school rom-com to check out on Netflix.