Everything Wrong with Netflix Original Romance Movies

Featuring Noah Centineo.

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In light of the new To All The Boys just being released, I figured it was a good time to discuss everything that was wrong with the Netflix original romance movies. Before I begin this article, if you are a fan of The Kissing Booth, the After movies, and To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, you may be offended. In this article I will be heavily criticizing these movies from the plot to the dialogue to the directing. These movies had moments of cringe, second-hand embarrassment, and moments that just don’t make sense.

Lets start with some of the worst romance movies I have ever seen: After and After We Collided starring Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin. I actually had never watched After We Collided because of how bad the first movie was, but for the sake of this article and because of how dedicated I am, I decided to sit myself down and indulge in 1 hour and 47 minutes of an eye-gauging cinematic experience. We will will start with the first movie. For those who do not know, After was originally a Wattpad fanfiction about Harry Styles, who is rewritten now as Hardin Scott. I have not read the original story for myself (and do not intend to) but if you want to then by all means do it. The movie is about a girl named Tessa entering her freshmen year of college. She is inexperienced, studious, and an all-around a goody-two-shoes (a total cliche of a protagonist). Her soon-to-be love interest is a guy named Hardin Scott, who is supposed to be the emotionally damaged bad boy who needs to be tamed (do not mind me as I am absolutely cringing right now). Throughout the whole movie, their relationship develops, which leads to Tessa cheating on her boring high school sweetheart, to becoming estranged with her mother, to overall everything in her life changing….all because of 1 singular boy. I have many issues with this movie. For one, the script was horrible and the dialogue was weak. There were so many lines that made me cringe. I do not want to spoil much, in case you would like to view this train wreck for yourself, but the ending was completely weird. Hardin’s version of an apology to Tessa (if you watched you will know what he did) was his final essay that the professor gives to her. It talks about how much he loves her with too many references to Wuthering Heights, since the only thing they have in common is classic literature. Other issues include the acting, the underdeveloped relationships, the plot, the predictability, etc.

If you thought After was bad, After We Collided is even worse. It has the same bad acting and bad plot, but somehow even more embarrassing than before. The two main characters have absolutely no chemistry and it was horribly written with the script dropping so many F-bombs it was as if a 6th grader was actively cursing for the first time. The only enjoyable part of this movie was seeing Dylan Sprouse’s face. I will not go too deeply into the issues that these movies present as they are just movies, but they romanticize the toxicity of Tessa and Hardin’s relationship, such as actively jumping to conclusions, controlling behavior, jealousy, possessiveness, and codependency. Overall these movies are one of the cringiest, most embarrassing movies I have ever had to put myself through, and if you wish to watch them yourself, you have been warned.

Apparently Netflix loves producing movies from Wattpad stories. The Kissing Booth also originated from Wattpad and the author was 15 at the time she wrote it. This movie starring Joey King were just as embarrassing as the After movies. Is this seriously what Netflix canceled the Society for? This romantic comedy follows everything that is cheesy and cliche in the worst way possible. Just to give a brief summary, the movie is about a girl named Elle who has a crush on a guy named Noah. However, he is her best friend Lee’s brother, which breaks one of the most important rules of their friendship. Although Elle is a pretty late bloomer with never experiencing her first kiss, she decides to run her high school carnival’s kissing booth where she ends up kissing Noah. Long story short, Elle falls for him but has to make choices throughout the movie of whether to follow the rule or follow her heart (cheesy right?). This movie has several issues. For one, it does not handle harassment and slut-shaming that well. In one scene, Elle is sexually harassed by a man and Noah decides to beat him up, even when Elle says to stop.  Netflix really romanticized the idea of a “bad boy” saving the girl and all the red flags that Noah displayed throughout the movie such as violence, borderline manipulation, controlling, unwarranted jealousy, and possessiveness. Again with the bad boy complex. Would it hurt have a different type of love interest? I know that these movies are based on the books, so that is where a lot of the issues with the characterization derive from, but honestly it is not that difficult to read a book and say “This should not be turned into movie.” Lee, Elle’s best friend, is another character that confuses me. You would think she would not want Elle to date his brother because he is in love with her. However, that is not the case which makes him seem more like an awful best friend. Both Noah and Lee act as if Elle is an object to be won. As for Elle, she is not a strong female character. I hate to say it but it is true. She never stands up for herself, does not have good development, and spends the entire movie focused on a crush. It is hard for me to say she is a strong female character when I compare her to other strong female characters such as Kat Stratford or Elle Woods. The only redeeming moment for her is when she drives off on Noah’s motorcycle alone at the end of the movie. With all these issues in mind, there is one more that simply irks me: NOAH GETS INTO HARVARD. I do not know how this happened. Throughout the movie Noah seems too intent on sleeping with his brother’s best friend to be focused on getting into an Ivy League. This acceptance was out of the blue. Why can’t Netflix have relatable characters that go to state school or something? There was no context as to how Noah would be able to get into Harvard University. Other parts of the movie that bothered me were the OMG girls, which were the cliche popular girls from every teen movie (cue the cringe). For some reason they kind of “Mr. Stark I don’t feel so good” from the movie. One minute they were there, the next minute they were not. Kissing Booth 2 was just as bad as the first one, highlighting more of the toxicity of the relationship between Noah and Elle, which leads us to question the kind of character Elle is. In many books and movies, this happens usually for the purpose of character development throughout the plot. In this movie’s case I just thought that Elle was dumb and Noah was a complete jerk.

Last but not least (actually I will leave that up to your discretion) is Too All the Boys I Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You. In my personal opinion, the first movie is bearable. Sure there were parts that were completely cheesy, but overall it was cute. The second movie, however, was just bad to put it bluntly. In Too All the Boys I Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You, we are officially introduced to John Ambrose Mcclaren (Jordan Fisher), one of the recipients of Lara Jean’s love letters who befriended her when they were younger. Although he writes back to her, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) does not respond (she does respond in the actual book though). They reunite at the retirement home where they are both volunteering and ultimately reignite the friendship that they once had. I do not want to spoil too much, but basically as the plot thickens, Lara Jean has to decide between her boyfriend Peter and her middle school crush John Ambrose. One of the issues I have with this movie is that it makes the audience want to support John Ambrose. I also got this feeling from when I was reading the book, but because I am not criticizing books in this article, I will not dwell on that discussion. Peter Kavinsky is the main male character and the love interest of our leading lady Lara Jean. However, John Ambrose is so perfect that you can not help but root for him. It makes you question Lara Jean as Peter was not the best communicator nor was he very attentive and John Ambrose checked off all the boxes for almost every girl in existence. There are also many parts in this movie that were changed from the book. While I know that happens all the time, I feel that these specific parts were crucial and that it was a shame that the director either cut them or altered them. One scene that they changed, and I wished they didn’t, is when John Ambrose and Lara Jean reunite at the retirement home as volunteers. In the book, they reunited because Lara Jean was the one volunteering, but John Ambrose was actually the grandson of one of the residents. I feel that the way the book wrote it made the connection between the two characters at the retirement home deeper. A plot point that was cut from the book in the movie was how Lara Jean fell in love with John Ambrose. In the book, Lara Jean fell in love with John Ambrose when they got caught in the rain in gym class in eighth grade, and John Ambrose took her hand as they collected dodgeballs. I personally think that this part should have not been cut out because it really demonstrates her strong feelings for him. Probably the most major plot point that the movie left out was the Assassins game, which was very upsetting. At the time capsule party, Lara Jean, Gen, John Ambrose, Peter, Trevor, and Chris all agreed to play the Assassins tag game. Lara Jean is considered to be the worst player, but she is hoping to prove everyone wrong. This game highlights her insecurities and other issues in her relationship with Peter. We also see this game as a tool to Lara Jean’s maturation in her overall character arc. There are so many more differences from the book and movie, such as Kitty’s birthday, the stark absence of Josh, the agreement in the movie versus the new contract in the book, and Lara Jean and John Ambrose’s kiss, that if I continued, this article would be too long for anyone to read.

The pacing is also very bad. This movie immediately establishes Lara Jean and Peter as a couple, which  is not a problem. The problem is they completely brushed over the hot tub video. In the book, the students would not let go of the situation and Lara Jean was completely harassed for it. However, the movie completely glossed over that and how Lara Jean felt about it and we are not introduced to a substantial conflict until Lara Jean and Peter break up.The process of Lara Jean and Peter making up was also very rushed. They just kissed and made up without discussing many of the valid issues in the relationship.

Another issue I have with this movie is that it is missing intimate details that make the relationships feel genuine and lived-in. In the first movie, the amount of improv Noah Centineo was able to give to his character made the audience fall in love with Peter Kavinsky and made the relationship between him and Lara Jean feel more real. Remember in the first movie Peter takes Lara Jean’s scrunchie out of her hair and says he likes her hair down? And throughout the movie, Lara Jean progressively starts to wear her hair down? Those details are what I am talking about. In P.S. I Still Love You, we do not really get any of that. The relationships between the characters feel more shallow. John Ambrose’s character , while better than Peter’s, feels very generic. In the books he is a character that seems perfect, yet still flushed out with goals, motivations, and actual character traits (can you name one interesting character trait of John Ambrose in the movie? And do not say he is good-looking). Peter is completely void of the charm he once held in the first movie. I do not know if this is because Noah Centineo himself took a turn for the worst (does anyone remember “It matters not what you’ve done, but what you do with what you’ve done for others”), but whatever the reason may be the fictional character and the relationships suffered.

“It matters not what you’ve done, but what you do with what you’ve done for others”

— Noah Centineo

While I have not watched the third To All The Boys movie, I do plan on doing so and writing another article about it. In fact I am planning on writing a Part 2 to this article with movies including Sierra Burguess is a Loser and The Perfect Date, both starring Noah Centineo. A coincidence? I think not! From what I hear, Peter Kavinsky gets accepted to Stanford (again with Netflix whipping out prestigious universities out of the blue) and boy do I have a lot to say about that. If you do not agree with my opinions on these movies, that is fine. But to me, all 5 of these Netflix original romance movies have clearly missed the mark. Now I am not saying that Netflix can not write good originals. If you are looking for recommendations, I suggest The Queen’s Gambit, Anne with an E, The Half of It, Marriage Story, and Dumplin’.