18th Aug2018

‘The Kissing Booth’ Review (Netflix Original)

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney, Carson White, Hilton Pelser, Judd Krok, Sanda Shandu, Joshua Daniel Eady, D. David Morin, Bianca Bosch, Jessica Sutton, Molly Ringwald  | Written and Directed by Vince Marcello

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When Elle Evans (Joey King), a pretty, late-bloomer who’s never-been-kissed, decides to run a kissing booth at her high school’s Spring Carnival, she unexpectedly finds herself locking lips with her secret crush- the ultimate bad boy, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). Sparks fly, but there’s one little problem: Noah just happens to be the brother of her best friend, Lee, (Joel Courtney) and is absolutely off limits according to the rules of their friendship pact. Elle’s life is turned upside down when she realizes that she must ultimately make a choice: follow the rules or follow her heart.

The Netflix exclusive The Kissing Booth directed by Vince Marcello and starring Joey King has suffered a truly nightmarish fury on release from both audiences and the collective of cultish Film Twitter wrath foreseeing it as a monstrosity the human race can’t bear to have in its wake of true blooded cinema. It is a surprise to propose the idea that not only is The Kissing Booth a fine coming of age tale, it also investigates the themes of teenage angst and morality on the equivalent level with most of its cinematic contemporaries. Highlighted with an interesting but drastically undercut voice that is much needed in the modern era of film with the problematical usage and ideologies of the male gaze on the female form.

To clarify, The Kissing Booth is your aimless cinematic cliched romantic comedy. That statement is without a shadow of a doubt, true, unequivocally in-fact. Nevertheless, what is the blemish within that sentiment if the material itself achieves its purpose on an entertainment value? You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest otherwise in the power of subjectivity in the medium of film. Although The Kissing Booth has a far more engrossing underbelly of thematic prowess that audiences are either simply not wanting to site, or naive to the fact that it exists, which is not necessarily an issue either way if the film justifies itself on your specific merits of filmmaking.

The thematic angles of angst and emotional turmoil within what is stated above are moments between Shelly and Noah, played by King and Jacob Elordi, respectively. Primarily the conceptive elements of a raw, ever-evolving relationship from two young adults who are developing their love in the midst of personal turmoil. It’s rocky with limited self-control physically and pshyologically with an incredibly emotional dialect that when fired, hits with full effect. The character of Noah specifically, evolves significantly during the film, his temper issues, while a front for passionate temptation, defines what is essentially a one-note character. Led purely through his own narrowminded misogyny and lust over the female form, until Shelly (adapting to a new life of sexual awakening on her own) begins to assimilate into sexual promiscuity, almost victimized after her physical developments due to puberty by her own peers, classmates and even elders. Yet, Noah, the classic jock, is glamorised and hurled as a teenage god by his peers and own brother as a thuggish bull that has characteristics of a fool. It’s Shelly who teaches him love and respect for the female form, albeit in a moment of an instance, possibly a level of development missing. He begins to melt internally of his caveman qualities, in a manner of tentatively written humour and romanticisation of the cliched material.

The gender politics are somewhat inadequate and blurred with very little exploration, purely grazing upon the issue of over-sexualization, specifically in that of Shelly. It’s somewhat confusing to see which angle the filmmakers are taking. One minute we have an empowering speech of how to respect the female form and the terrible treatment of Shelly because of her body, then a scene later voyeuristic images of Shelly’s body that linger far too long, in a very perverted manner that ultimately contradicts so much of the power that the film conveys. This ultimately leads the film down a path of a clear coordinated fashion, unable nor perhaps wanting to point out the clear misogyny or systematic prejudice of the female form but from a Netflix exclusive does one expect anything different?

The Kissing Booth is available on Netflix now.

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