I finally watched The Kissing Booth on Netflix. And I have to say… it has a lot of issues. And these issues are sugarcoated by the obvious choices of very good looking people to play the characters and the supposed true love they find with each other. But all those good genes and true love can’t completely cover up just how toxic 90% of this film is.
The premise of the movie (and the book it was based on, which I have yet to read) is that Elle and Lee have been best friends since the moment they were born — which was at exactly the same time at the same hospital, to mothers who had already been best friends for ~10 years. They have friendship rules, which in my experience is rarely a good thing, and one of those rules is that relatives are off limits romantically. Also from experience, you can’t dictate who people are allowed to fall in love with. That’s just not how hormones or actual love work.
Now, the weird part of these rules? Lee is the only one with an older brother. They also came up with these rules when they were six. SIX. Elle’s little brother wasn’t even born at that point, and anyways, who decides their friendship is threatened by a brother (who is only a year older, btw) at six years old? Everything about those rules was ridiculous. Obviously, Elle has been in a tizzy over the older brother, Noah, since forever. Noah has always looked out for Elle and Lee, but he is also shown as always getting into fights (and winning). The fights, for the most part, are presented at first as in defense of Lee and Elle, but throughout the film they become meaner and more aggressive.
When Noah is a senior (and of course on the football team) and Elle and Lee are juniors, the Dance Club hosts a Kissing Booth at the annual school fundraising fair, and Noah kisses Elle while she’s blindfolded. She takes off the blindfold right after and they start making out, which is nice and all, but he’s also spent the first half of the film basically calling her his little sister and telling all the boys in the school not to ask her out or he’ll break their noses.
After a beach party post kissing booth, Noah gets into a fight with a dude who tried to drag Elle off to a hot tub. When Elle runs off Noah follows her and tells her to get into the car. She continues walking away and he pounds on the hood of the car and yells at her, demanding that she get in the car. I don’t care that he said please after that. Elle stopped walking away the second he yelled, obviously scared. And then she lets him drive her home. Not only that, but he doesn’t even take her home! Noooo, they go to the Hollywood sign and decide they’re going to date in secret until Elle figures out a way to tell Noah’s younger brother and her only friend that she’s breaking their friendship rules. Then they make out and sleep together. On their first date. Because you should always sleep with someone who got into a fight, screamed at you, said they would drive you home and then didn’t, and then agreed to date you in secret while lying to their brother and your best friend about it. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
When Lee eventually finds out, he insists that Elle doesn’t know what Noah is like, or what she’s getting into, and that is just the most ridiculous piece of crap in the entire film because A) She grew up with both Lee AND Noah. There’s nothing she doesn’t know. and B) Even if she hadn’t grown up with them, she’s gone to school with them both forever, has seen Noah in fights every other day, and has spent the better part of four months dating him every second they’re not at school. There’s no one that knows him better. And yet when Lee sees a cut on Elle’s face he jumps to the conclusion that his brother punched her?! Where does he get off? Sure, Noah has anger issues and gets into fights, but Lee would get into a lot more fights if Noah didn’t keep stepping in and ending them before Lee could get a swing in.
I appreciated the beginning, which was cute, and the ending, which was also cute. The whole middle though — which the entirety of the plot — was a mess. Noah’s anger issues became full-on terrifying and were probably toned down from the novel if I had to hazard a guess. Lee has his own anger issues, but what got me the most about him was his inability to share. When he finds out about Elle and Noah the thing he is most upset about is that Noah always gets whatever he wants and that the only thing Lee had that Noah didn’t was Elle. And he can’t stand it. That, to me, is just disgusting.
This is a film that only gets by because of its good-looking actors. Even I was eventually drawn in to watch it, despite thinking the premise sounded like bad news since the first trailer. And reader, the chemistry was there… but so was the violence. 3/10, would not recommend without a trigger warning for violence attached to it. Might be good fodder for a psychology class though.
If you would like to judge it for yourself, you can find The Kissing Booth streaming on Netflix. Trailer below.
HHC Rating: 3/10, or 1.5 Stars.