The Kissing Booth is an American rom-com based on the novel of the same name by Beth Reekles. The film has the typical trope of a forbidden romance between a younger girl and an older boy, which is complicated because it is her best friend’s brother. The film highlights some troubling themes, and moments of slut-shaming and sexual harassment are downplayed for laughs and normalized.
1. Quick Review
Netflix’s The Kissing Booth is a rom-com that offers no new insight into teenage love stories. Instead, it highlights the worst aspects of high school and makes jokes out of casual sexual harassment. The movie was a commercial success but managed to sexualize every aspect of a budding relationship, without offering much in terms of character development and story.
2. Info & Watch Links
The Kissing BoothAir Date: May 11, 2018 Status: Finished Studio: Komixx Entertainment, Netflix
3. Is It Worth Watching?
Even though The Kissing Booth is steeped in old patriarchal customs, audiences have flocked to the screen to watch it. The film continually tries to control Elle through Lee and his brother Noah, and Elle does herself no favors through her behavior. The romance is clichéd, and the characters are flawed, but the movie is still getting a sequel.
The movie opens with a voice-over in which we are informed about the friendship between Lee and Elle. Their mothers were friends in school, and both of them share the same birthday. They live next to each other and have been friends since childhood.
The friendship between Lee and Elle is governed by a list of rules, one of which is that they cannot date each other’s relatives. This is more a rule for Elle because she has a major crush on Lee’s older brother Noah and Lee doesn’t want them to hook up and jeopardize their friendship.
On the first day of school, Elle rips her uniform pants and chooses to wear a very short skirt that is a part of her older uniform. When a boy slaps her butt, Lee tries to defend her, before Noah jumps in and pummels the guy with strikes.
This is the start of a series of problematic events in the movie that are supposed to be building the romance between Noah and Elle but serve as an opportunity to get them undressed.
In a school carnival, Elle and Lee are organizing a Kissing Booth, a weird tradition in which blindfolded classmates kiss each other. The Booth shows up more than one hour into the movie and does little to deepen the relationship between Elle and Lee.
The two of them eventually end up together and decide to keep their relationship a secret. Following a sequence of making out and near-escapes, Lee finally finds out and ends his friendship with Elle. Caught between friendship and love, Elle has to navigate what she wants.
II. Cast & Characters
All the characters in The Kissing Booth are slightly problematic and completely one-dimensional. Despite many voice-overs from Elle, we never get much of a backstory on any of them.
Joey King plays Rochelle Evans, Lee’s best friend, and his brother’s girlfriend. Elle is okay with Noah controlling her every move and his violent nature. When she wants to assert her independence, she chooses to march around in a bra to make Noah jealous and want her.
Joel Courtney plays Lee, who is a relatively nice guy in the movie. He is innocent and wants to protect his friend from being another one of his brother’s sexual exploits.
Jacob Elrodi plays Lee’s brother and Elle’s crush Noah. He has a very violent temperament and is continually getting into fights. Elle even has to make him promise that he won’t fight anyone while she’s his girlfriend, a request which Noah shrugs off. He is continually talking about his achievements and sexual exploits with women and tries to control Elle.
III. What’s Wrong With The Kissing Booth
The Kissing Booth has a shallow script that uses every opportunity and plot point to initiate a make-out session or get the characters out of their clothes. Early on, when Tuppen grabs Elle’s ass, both end up in detention, even though she is the victim, and her only crime is violating the school dress code.
Noah exclaims that she was “asking for it” by wearing a short skirt, and Elle, later on, agrees to go put with the same guy who grabbed her ass after a weak apology. When she finds out that Noah is interfering in her dating life by threatening Tuppen, she sees this as a sign of love.
The movie downplays the sexual harassment and catcalls that are hurled at Elle. There are numerous scenes when Elle finds herself in her bra, surrounded by a group of boys. The teenage boys are depicted as a pack of horny dogs who can have no other thought than sex on their minds.
The OMG girls are also a stereotype in every high school movie repeated in The Kissing Booth. You don’t connect with the characters at any moment, and the relationship between Elle and Noah is purely physical, a fact which she spells out when she makes a pros and cons list of dating him.
Noah’s habit of getting into fights is also shown as usual and doesn’t stop him from getting into Harvard. He is a nefarious ladies man, a fact that Elle doesn’t like but gets over very quickly.
5. Final Thoughts
The Kissing Booth is a completely unrealistic depiction of a teenage love story. It is a collection of stereotypes, sexualized characters, and lazy writing stuck together in the script. The movie makes jokes out of problematic elements and tells a very misogynistic story in which both Elle and Noah are complicit.