WARNING: this contains spoilers only for the first and second novels/movies.
I still remember when the first movie came out, right before the start of my Sophomore year of college. It revolved around that cute and fluffy innocent romance that everyone craves every now and again. The very next day after I had finished the movie I drove to Barnes & Noble to purchase the whole series. Mind you, this is something I usually consider blasphemous – you should ALWAYS read the book before you watch the show or movie. It’s just the natural order of things.
But, as it turns out, my methods and opinions are a little mixed up when it comes to this series; I thought the first movie was better than the book. Yeah, I said it! Maybe it is because in the movie we don’t have the excruciating pain of waiting to find out if Lara Jean and Peter somehow work out their issues. Overall, I just thought the way the plot moved made more sense in Netflix’s rendition than in the paper form.
However, the same cannot be said for the sequel. It was as though major plot points were skimmed over, and the main focus of the book got jumbled around.
I have two main critiques: one, how John Ambrose McClaren and Lara Jean’s relationship is sped up and glossed over, and two, how Gen’s family issues are summed up into about five minutes of dialogue. In fact, the last 20 minutes of the movie basically summarizes all of the major events that occur in the book.
I mean, sure you could feel the electricity between Lara Jean and John Ambrose in the movie, but it’s forced. In the book, it develops naturally. Plus, whatever happened to that super-hot, every-girls-dream, red mustang car kiss? In the movie, they never gave poor John Ambrose a chance. Sure, he was just as charming and smart as ever, but he needed more screen time and alone time with Lara Jean!
I also found Gen’s character arc to be simplified to the point where it’s still easy to hate her. Sure, the treehouse scene was touching. It takes a lot of strength for two ex-best friends to confront each other like that, and even more, strength to come clean and tell the truth. But, in the book, when Lara Jean spies on Gen’s dad I feel like the impact hits harder. It’s grittier than the movie, which makes everything seem simple and easy. The reader can understand a little more why Genevieve acts the way she does and feels that she has to have a hard outer shell. This also makes Lara Jean appear to be less of the super innocent main character, which is an important point to make.
In the hour and 30 minutes of this movie, it was also difficult to develop Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship. We did see how the couple struggled to adjust to the roles of real boyfriend and girlfriend, but I feel as though their relationship didn’t progress as much as it did on-page.
All that being said, these movies are still a great way to escape from everyday life. For one, the aesthetics are amazing and the cinematography is quite beautiful with colors like those from a Wes Anderson film. If you are looking for a fluffy romance to slip away into, this series is one you should definitely experience – from pages to the screen!