Is The Kissing Booth The Best Teen Movie Of Our Time?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
There are two types of people in this world: People who have seen The Kissing Booth on Netflix, and people who have not seen The Kissing Booth on Netflix. The former want to talk about The Kissing Booth all the time, even shout about it over their computers in an open-plan office. The latter don’t know what they’re missing. Ahead is a frank conversation between two Refinery29 entertainment editors who watched the relatively new Netflix movie about ugly duckling turned swan Elle (Joey King), real name Shelly allegedly, who falls in love with her best friend Lee’s (Joel Courtney) extremely attractive older brother Noah (Jacob Elordi), thus violating one of their official friendship rules. Yes, their friendship has rules.
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Let’s dive in.
Lauren Le Vine: So Morgan, we are officially People Who Have Seen The Kissing Booth. Not just people, adults.
Morgan Baila: Ah yes, and it feels so good to know what the youths really look for in a movie these days: kissing, million dollar L.A. homes, and….Dance Dance Revolution?
LL: It does feel like an episode of Million Dollar Listing: L.A.. Do they ever explain why they’re all so rich? Anyway, what inspired you to watch The Kissing Booth in the first place?
MB: Honestly, once I learned that two of the stars, King and Elordi, began dating in real life I knew that I had to watch this. I mean, if the movie was good enough to make them have IRL crushes on each other, then it’s probably good enough for me to watch on a rainy Friday night. What about you?
LL: I will watch basically anything that even vaguely resembles a rom-com. Especially a teen rom-com. I would never want to go back to high school, but I definitely want to see what kind of brutal hellscape it is for kids these days.
MB: I am so obsessed with what high school is like in 2018. There are juuls, there are finstagrams, there are kids learning how to be a person in the world by following Instagram influencers! It’s so interesting to me. Unfortunately, The Kissing Booth has none of those things. Instead they have a literal kissing booth.
LL: Before watching the movie I looked up the plot to see if it was about an actual kissing booth (as opposed to a metaphorical one? I don’t know where I was going with that idea), because I couldn’t believe any high school in the year of our lord 2018 (that’s 5778 for my fellow tribe members) would actually have a kissing booth. Aren’t they worried about mono or STIs?
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MB: Imagine there being an earnest convo about STIs in this movie. I could see Molly Ringwald doing that. All I know is that junior year at my high school it was mono city, so I’m not sure how this movie managed to avoid all that.
LL: Those of us who have seen The Kissing Booth know that that conversation would be terribly out of place. This is a movie where a teen says to the protagonist, “So you really have just been FUCKING my brother and lying to me?!” I don’t recall that kind of line ever appearing in Pretty in Pink or She’s All That, do you? And Elle gets wasted at a party and does a striptease on a table. That’s sort of an homage to Kat’s iconic table dance in 10 Things I Hate About You, I guess?
MB: Yeah, I noted that, too! Not to be too square about it, but in another scene, I counted how many shots she took, and it was at least seven. And she ended the night with few repercussions. She barely even had a hangover! I thought it was an interesting choice to have teen binge drinking be presented so casually. It doesn’t have to be villainised, but it was lax as hell. Another rom-com callback was to John Hughes’ Breakfast Club when Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget (About Me)” track narrated this present-era prom scene. Ringwald must have been cringing.
LL: The prom where their classmates recreated the now-ICONIC kissing booth! Where Noah tells Elle he loves her in front of the entire school, and then leaves for college — not just college, but Harvard — the next day.
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MB: What was the cringiest part to you? I almost lost it over her ‘escape route” from Hot Flynn’s bedroom via a trampoline that had her ending up in the pool, soaking wet in her clothes.
LL: For me it was probably when Elle is getting dressed for her first day back at school, and when she bends down her pants rip right up the butt seam. Of course the rest of her pants are at the cleaners (has she been wearing uniform pants in the summer? This is highly sus), so she has to wear a skirt that’s about three sizes too small and barely covers her underwear. Her shirt is also bordering on indecently tight, so the whole thing is very “Oops I Did It Again” video. I went to public school and didn’t have uniforms, but that outfit wouldn’t have flown there, either.
MB: So did The Kissing Booth change your life like it did Elle’s and Hot Flynn’s? Did they reinvent the gazebo kiss for you? (Sound of Music Who?) Are you suddenly jotting down your own friendship rules? (I'd sub the “everything is forgiven if you bring your friend an ice cream” to “everything is forgiven if you bring your friend an aperol spritz”.) Is this a teen rom-com for the ages?
LL: Well, it definitely changed my expectations for how teens are losing their virginity these days. Under the L in the Hollywood sign? Isn’t it illegal to get that close to it? I mean, I saw Friends With Benefits. Didn’t Mila and Justin get in trouble for being there?
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MB: Yes, but apparently when you are a make-out bandit like Hot Flynn you know how to break the rules! But speaking of Friends With Benefits — this movie followed in another pretty sad rom-com stereotype: it was full of only white people. I think there is one implied gay character who is excited to kiss a boy at the booth, but he’s definitely only used as a punchline. I do wish that this new age teen rom-com had embraced diversity as much as it embraced realistic messy girl hair.
LL: I also wish Elle didn’t have to end up shirtless in so many scenes so Hot Flynn could be like, “WOW I never noticed my brother’s best friend before, but now that I see she has BOOBS 10/10 would bang.” She basically does a striptease in the boys’ locker room!
MB: And then the photo of her striptease ends up blown up as a huge decorative poster at the prom! What the hell. That whole scene felt like an inverted 13 Reasons Why plot line. Things that made Hannah’s life really difficult were the same things that make Elle seem...quirky and desirable? It’s a little weird. But overall, do you stan The Kissing Booth? And who is your favourite character? I know you have one.
LL: Um, you know that my favourite character is the girl with too-tight headgear, who shows up in roughly five scenes (including a large picture projected onto the screen at prom). Has headgear technology not improved in the last 15 years? I want a spin-off about headgear girl. Honorary mention goes to Elle’s little brother, who says “Holy shit” when she does the classic teen movie descent down the stairs in her prom dress. Is this a normal way for younger brothers to react to seeing their sisters in fancy dresses and a lot of makeup?
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MB: That is definitely not normal. Nor is it cute. All that’s missing is a slow-mo Sixpence None The Richer “Kiss Me” moment. But I’m glad he got his SAG card.
LL: I could talk about The Kissing Booth forever, but I have to leave for HARVARD tomorrow because I got in and no one knew (and you can’t tell anyone). Make sure you don’t run into your boyfriend’s mom while you’re buying condoms at the one drugstore in town!
MB: Wow...And to think… it all happened… because of a KISSING BOOTH.
P.S. — This is not the best teen movie of our time. — MB & LL
P.P.S. — That would be Not Another Teen Movie. — MB
P.P.P.S — Or 10 Things I Hate About You. — LL
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