'To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You' Review: Lara Jean’s anxiety to be perfect shines in predictable sequel
She is finally a girlfriend and not as relatable, but we'll let it slide purely because of the things the very innate Lara Jean manages to come up with
This article contains spoilers.
There's a clear cut formula to make a hit rom-com: attractive bad boy meets awkward girl, friendship blooms, soon minor inconvenience arrives to urge them towards breaking off all ties, but things sort out ridiculously quickly in the fictional world and the next thing we know, they are on their voyage towards a happily ever after. One would think after the stellar success of Netflix's 2018 gem titled 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before', the edgy streaming platform would whip up another original tale of love and loss so unique, so refreshing, we would once again find ourselves relating to the confused haze of Lara Jean waiting to be swept off our feet by the dreamy Peter Kavinsky, but not quite. The just-arrived 'To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You', coming as a sequel to the 2018 flick, is both a boon and a curse. Where there is the surprising success of the first film to bank on, there's also a lot to live up to - something that a predictable storyline does little to help.
Adapted from Jenny Hann's screenplay, the sequel once again presents to us Lana Condor as the lovestruck Lara Jean, and Noah Centineo returns to woo us with his boyish charm as Peter. Joining the cast this time is Jordan Fisher as the minor inconvenience we spoke of - aka John Ambrose, one of the five recipients of Lara Jean's childhood love letters. The third and most prominent character in the film is, of course, Lara Jean's anxiety and the internal conflict to have the perfect high school relationship. On the first date of her entire life, leave alone Peter, Lara Jean can't stop thinking about the possibility of all of this ending. Later, her woes escalate from not receiving enough musical valentines, to not being as experienced as her boyfriend who is seasoned in playing the field, and who can't relate to that, right?
The first relationship comes with a lot of pressure to make everything perfect and in that Lara Jean is as relatable as she was as the misty-eyed girl crushing on her sister's hot boyfriend in the first movie. But from a third person's perspective, looking at her two years ahead and suddenly in a relationship, you can't help but notice Lara Jean has changed; or was she always like this and it's just the add on that makes it more prominent?
It is questions like these the sequel pops up in the mind to keep us hooked on to the narrative when the cardboard cutout settings from a teen's Pinterest dreams get a little too much to deal with, especially under all of those Instagram filters we can't seem to do without. In its own way, the sequel makes all that's sought after look mundane, as we seek the real Lara Jean throughout the plot, and find her only in scenes where she is paired with the currently forbidden fruit.
Sad and heartbreaking as it might be to admit, Lara Jean is not half the fun she was in the original, especially when she is around Peter. They might fit better than a hand-knit jumper on a cold Christmas morning, but if looked at as two people, there's not much they bring to the table except extreme kindness to each other even when turmoils revolving John arise. Perhaps that is the message of the tale - kindness: a gesture that is pretty much lost on kids their age, as they are just learning to embrace the world for what it all is. And as Peter and Lara Jean disagree their way through the importance of likes and outfits and the significance of who brings pizza to her party, with her love life we get a picture-perfect fairytale driven by the teenage anxiety of making everything perfect - including urging your widowed father towards a new valentine.
Arriving right in time for Valentine's Day, the film explores internal anxieties and a teen's approach to the world of dating at a time when everybody's "firsts" are done and dusted. There's Lara Jean's eagerness to experience it all, but also on her own little terms, one love letter at a time. For a lot of reasons, 2020's Lara Jean might come off as a bit too precocious in inexperience - if that's even a thing. There's a tasteful exploration of Lara Jean's Korean heritage and of course, a more Wes Anderson than John Hughes vibe to the screenplay courtesy screenwriters Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe. But for several other reasons, it is her sheer personal ability to make a choice and the right one at that between two extremely deserving boys she has loved before that makes her the star of the show, all thanks to the original's cinematographer turned sequel's director - Michael Fimognari.
'To all the Boys: PS I Still Love You' premiered on February 12 and is available for streaming only on Netflix.