Arts & Culture

Kissing Booth 2 Review: I wanted to hate it but I kind of liked it7 min read

The Kissing Booth 2 announcing a sequel back in May sparked controversy on social media. But as much as I wanted to hate it, the second film wasn’t horrific.  In fact it was a whirlwind of emotions.

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A quick recap

The Kissing Booth follows Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney), two inseparable best friends, through high school with their undeniably strict friendship rules. We see Elle falling in love with Lee’s older brother Noah (Jacob Elordi), and the film focuses on how they navigate their relationship in secret whilst also not wanting to hurt Lee’s feelings. Like a classic rom com, fights breakout, the stereotypical mean girls (known as the OMGs) intervene but in the end Elle and Noah get their cringe, fairy tale ending. However, Noah is off to Harvard, leaving the audience to question how their relationship will survive. 

This leads onto the second film. The trailer, like many Netflix originals, seems to spoil a little too much. We see that Elle and Lee are going into senior year, applying for college and Noah is at Harvard. Like many teen romance films, new love interests are introduced to spark the drama and we can predict the whole plot line, but we watch anyway in hope that we may get a different outcome… this was not the case. Spoilers ahead!

The reality of long-distance relationships

One aspect of the film that was strong was the portrayal of a long-distance relationship. It is established from the start that everyone assumes Elle and Noah have broken up as it is “automatic” due to distance. We saw the reality of Elle being paranoid, jealous of Noah’s friends especially Chloe, a new introduction in the sequel with her role as Noah’s girl best friend. She was used to bring some fuel to the relationship, sparking cheating accusations and unfortunately making Elle feel as if she was not worthy for Noah. He may not have cheated on Elle with Chloe, but he did hide secrets and lie so we can understand why Elle may have felt unloved at times. The film under the cringe scenes did shed light on topics of feeling insecure, lack of trust and communication and settling for new situations, one aspect I believe was portrayed effortlessly.

However, we can’t deny the fact that Noah and Elle are still a strong couple. With Lee’s blessing at the end of the first Kissing Booth it was nice to see their relationship flourish. We see Noah has matured; changed to be a better version for Elle. His character development deserved more screen time as he is not as aggressive as he was in the last film. It would have been interesting to see more of his time at Harvard.

It is also important to mention Elordi didn’t seem excited when the sequel got the green light. This also comes after his outstanding performance in Euphoria and breaking up with Joey King, actress who plays Elle. Despite this, there was nothing to fault about their on-screen acting and professionalism.

Focus on side characters

The sequel focuses heavily on the side characters, which I preferred because our protagonist was irritating on several occasions. We got to meet the new heartthrob Marco, a musician and all-rounder who came to add some excitement to the Kissing Booth. This brings in the dance competition which Elle enrols for to win money to attend a more prestigious college for Noah, leading to very cringe scenes, which did make me want to stop watching.

Although Lee was meant to participate with Elle, he faked an injury so Marco, the better dancer could compete with her. I am glad he did. The chemistry between Elle and Marco was beautiful to see. Marco’s character was heroic, caring and helpful, he is the type of guy that knows what to say and their friendship was effortless, which led to many thinking they were probably meant to be together.

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Rachel

We also got to see more of Rachel, Lee’s girlfriend, and her character development was my favourite. Lee is incredibly annoying throughout the film as he struggles to be honest with Elle and is very unsupportive towards his girlfriend. We could potentially label him as the villain as his behaviour at times was unacceptable. It was interesting to see Rachel’s shy character expand as she stood up for herself telling Lee that he spends too much time with Elle, which is increasingly noticeable and telling him to set his priorities straight.

The triangle formed between Elle, Rachel and Lee did lead to many uncomfortable scenes, but it was done in such a way to also highlight what Noah wanted with Chloe. Noah mentions that he sees how close Lee and Elle are and so was developing a friendship like that with Chloe rather than a romantic one, which leads to Elle forgiving Noah. A reason why I think Elle chose Noah over Marco. However, Lee became increasingly unlikeable in the sequel and his actions seem repetitive to the first one.

The kissing booth seemed more like a side character in the sequel too. I was confused for most of the film as to why it wasn’t incorporated much but it was merely just a prop to rekindle relationships. Perhaps symbolic as it fixed everything between Lee and Rachel and was also when Elle had an epiphany and realised she would prefer to be with Noah rather than Marco.

Predictable storyline

With Netflix teen romances we can almost always anticipate what is going to happen. The core of the plot for the sequel is focusing on the lack of communication between all of the characters. No one was honest with anyone and it led to a lot of accusations and arguments. For once I thought maybe Elle would end up with Marco and the film would defy conventional rom coms. That was obviously not the case and it made me question why films never twist and change the standard relationships. It seems directors never want to take a risk.

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Marco seems like a better match for Elle. He agrees to help Elle win a dance competition without asking for any money. He gives her relationship advice, ultimately even saying she is worth fighting for.

This made me question if they’ll be a third film. Personally, I don’t think the franchise should continue because overall it is very cliché. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t watch it, and it would be interesting to see how their relationship would pan out. If there were a third it would be interesting to see which brother Elle would choose. Being accepted into both Harvard and Berkeley would she go with her boyfriend or her best friend? However, again, there would be a repetition of the first two films.

A pretty, average sequel

Although the acting was faultless the film is simply just average. It gives fans everything they want just with obstacles in the way, but overall it is predictable and overly dramatic. Some scenes were given too much screen-time and the end was extremely rushed. But this did allow for some much-needed character development. Additionally, King was a strong female-lead and her acting is underrated despite carrying the whole film.

Every teen romance movie on Netflix unfortunately is similar. The film reminded me of To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, with an almost identical plot. Definitely a feel-good film and one to watch if you don’t have much to do. While it does entertain, I’m not sure whether I would watch it again.

As a whole we are psychologically wired to like rom coms with the same basic storyline. We get emotionally invested in characters, cruising through the cringe and the cliché, even when we don’t want to!

Mansi Vithlani

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