THE KISSING BOOTH: A Crash Course In Lazy Filmmaking
Compared to other teen classics that have covered the same ground before, The Kissing Booth comes across as amateurish - and a tiny bit problematic.
The Kissing Booth tells the familiar tale of a teenage girl and her crush on a bad boy, ending exactly as you think it would. The ways in which it reaches this inevitable conclusion, however, are contrived, plodding, and at moments concerning.
As somewhat of a connoisseur of low quality, so-bad-they’re-good teen films on Netflix (I’m looking at you, SPF 18), I found myself oddly excited for The Kissing Booth, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact the original story had been written on a fanfiction website by fifteen-year-old Welsh teenager Beth Reekles. Whilst I don’t particularly want to bash the work of a young teenager, I’m certainly happy to criticise an unimaginative, confusing mess of a film made by Netflix, a high profile company. And criticise I shall.
By far the most glaring fault of the film is its embarrassing tonal issues. This begins early with an opening montage that displays no tact in establishing both the death of main character Elle’s mother next to her penchant for the Dance Dance Revolution games, as well as a cutesy depiction of the ‘stupidly hot’ love interest Noah Flynn maniacally beating up a classmate to a cheery pop song. I didn’t particularly get the sense that this was done for humour, though I certainly did find myself laughing at moments director Vince Marcello clearly didn’t want me to.
Normally the low stakes plot wouldn’t be an issue for me when watching a teen film; 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless pull this off wonderfully. However, each of those films knew what they were, and made sure that any conflict felt personal and intimate rather than melodramatic and overblown. This is not an ability The Kissing Booth displays, and small-scale, personal problems that at most could result in a character’s hurt feelings are treated as life-or-death issues. Accusations of domestic abuse are thrown around in a film that also features a drawn-out joke about Elle ripping her school trousers, and lines like ‘dude touched my lady-bump’.
Pacing and Editing
Another problem that plagued not just a few scenes but the entire running time was the incredibly confusing pacing and editing. On multiple occasions, the film gave little indication as to how long had passed between scenes or even cuts, rarely using establishing shots or including any kind of explanation as to the change of location or time. This was an interesting contrast to the overbearing exposition delivered via Elle’s narration, that described simple events onscreen with all the condescension of a pre-school teacher.
The previously mentioned montage at the start of the film served to set up Elle’s life until that point at breakneck speed, with the remaining hour and forty minutes accomplishing very little. I can’t say for sure that stretching this montage out would have fixed every pacing problem, but so many scenes end with no plot or character development that it becomes frustrating quickly, and has the added bonus of making the whole film feel like an eternity with no sense of progression.
For a teen film, the ultimate moral of The Kissing Booth was somewhat inconsistent and troubling. Whilst it appears to end on a note that celebrates confidence and independence, the majority of the film involves two teenage boys essentially arguing over who controls a teenage girl and who she may or may not sleep with. Rather than this being critiqued in a meaningful way, each character is depicted as sympathetic, and Elle never really argues back or questions it. Not to mention other moments in the film that involve a comic relief male character groping her or the entire school football team catcalling her, both scenes with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators.
The fact that the close friendship between Elle and Lee never results in romance should be commended, with very few films of the genre being able to depict a platonic friendship between members of the opposite sex. Having said this, the power dynamic between the two shifts from balanced to more on Lee’s side when it comes to Elle’s relationships with other boys, which dampens the sense of equality given from their interactions in the first act.
Despite the irritating script and the lack of much to do, lead actress Joey King does what she can with the character of Elle, mostly coming across as charming and likeable, though she is obviously not a master of physical comedy. The same goes for Joel Courtney playing her best friend Lee (Noah’s brother), who manages to seem fairly benign regardless of his character’s questionable behaviour. The weak link of the main cast is certainly Jacob Elordi, who I assume was cast as Noah because of his physique rather than his just about serviceable acting talent.
Filmed in Cape Town, the California setting helps to keep the mood light, adding to the frothy fun of some of the better scenes with some vibrant and appealing visuals, such as the moments in the Flynns’ extravagant household or one in which Elle and Noah get in a paint fight.
Conclusion: The Kissing Booth
Allusions to The Breakfast Club in the soundtrack and the casting of Molly Ringwald certainly don’t help The Kissing Booth look anything other than lazy and amateur next to other teen classics. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Dazed and Confused, and The Breakfast Club itself are all also on Netflix (in the UK at least), are all far superior films that tackle similar issues, and are all far more worthy of your time.
Whilst the performances of the main cast and the story’s origins may make this film more forgivable, the laziness of the writing and editing allow it no credibility or memorability.
What did you think? Are there any other teen romances on Netflix that deserve more attention? Did you enjoy The Kissing Booth? Discuss in the comments!
The Kissing Booth was released on Netflix worldwide on May 11, 2018.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.