- Netflix’s romantic comedy “The Kissing Booth” has been met with positive and negative feedback from fans and critics.
- Some viewers have called the movie sexist, regressive, and cliche.
- The movie has also been called problematic.
Still, the fact “The Kissing Booth” is an unmitigated disaster hasn’t stopped teens from absolutely loving it, and the Netflix original movie has garnered so much social buzz that Netflix has recently taken to YouTube to officially announce a sequel to the rom-com.
“The Kissing Booth” is the story of Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney), two best friends since birth, who follow a bizarrely long list of rules that govern their friendship. Chaos ensues when Elle breaks rule No. 9 and falls for Lee’s older, hotter, bad-boy-with-a-temper brother Noah (Jacob Elordi). To be fair, it’s not the love triangle you’d expect, but much of the movie is sexist and regressive and does a disservice to some of the better teen film tropes it borrows from and alludes to.
Let’s take a closer look at this ridiculous movie and some of the scenes I found to be problematic.
So much happens in “The Kissing Booth,” yet the majority of the film is filled with expository monologues and montages.
In a four-minute voiceover, we learn that Elle and Lee were born on the same day, at the same time to mothers who were already BFFs. Audiences also discover they have a shared affinity for Dance Dance Revolution, Elle’s mother has died, and Elle is totally crushing on Lee’s brother Noah, who has some serious anger issues.
Lee and Elle have created list of “strict rules for best friends,” which includes one rule that only seems to apply to Elle.
Throughout the movie, audiences repeatedly see the ways both Lee and Noah try to control Elle. Lee insists on the inclusion of rule No. 9, which states that dating your best friend’s relatives is strictly forbidden. This is a rule that seems to only apply to Elle since her own brother looks about 8 years old. If you’re thinking that Lee included the rule because he’s secretly in love with her, he’s not. It’s worse because he simply doesn’t want his brother to be with her.
Much of the plot seems specifically contrived to get its characters in a state of undress.
There are plenty of stupid things about this movie, but it’s hard not to roll your eyes at the backflips “The Kissing Booth” does to get Elle into a tiny skirt on the first day of school. She rips her school-issued pants and tries to convince everyone that wearing a skirt that she admittedly says she’s outgrown is a more logical choice than wearing literally any other pair of pants.
Lee and Noah are constantly trying to rescue Elle.
When a guy grabs Elle’s butt in the school parking lot, Lee immediately attempts to defend her honour and proceeds to ignore Elle when she says she can handle the situation herself. When things start to get physical, Noah swoops and tackles the guy who assaulted Elle. Noah continues to pummel the guy and also ignores Elle while she’s screaming at him to stop.
Noah tells Elle she “was asking for it” after she is sexually assaulted.
A few more major problems start to bubble up at this point. Noah treats Elle in a completely condescending manner after they’re both sent to the principal’s office. He ignores the fact that she’s totally unimpressed with his caveman routine and brushes off the idea she could deal with things herself. He tells her she “has zero experience with guys” and informs her that “wearing a skirt like that is asking for it.”
Elle gets the same punishment as the guy who assaulted her.
Elle ends up in detention for breaking the dress code, which is the same punishment handed out to the guy who assaulted her. What’s worse, neither the principal nor the movie as a whole seems to take the incident seriously. In fact, the whole thing is appears to be played for laughs when the movie has Elle tell the principal, “I am upset. Dude touched my lady bump.”
The OMG Girls are one of the many, many teen movie cliches in “The Kissing Booth.”
Enter the bargain-basement Plastics ripoffs. Here we meet Olivia, Mia, and Gwyneth, three super-popular girls whom Elle calls the OMG Girls. The trio have some of the worst lines in the entire movie and are obsessed with Noah.
Elle agrees to go out with the guy who assaulted her after he offers a pathetic apology.
Elle decides to go out with the guy who grabbed her butt after he sends her a very lame apology note and puts on her tiny skirt for what is supposed to be comedic effect.
Elle learns Noah has been trying to control her romantic life.
Elle gets dressed up for her date, but she gets stood up. When the guy shows up late, he explains it’s because Noah threatened him and has been warning all the other guys not to ask her out. Elle is understandably horrified after learning this and tells Noah, “It is not your job to monitor my dating life. The days of you controlling my life are over.” Noah smirks and tells her, “We’ll see about that.”
This is supposed to be played off as the cutesy flirtatious beginnings of their eventual relationship, but really it’s a major red flag and just one of the many ways Noah tries to control Elle.
Noah and Lee live in this amazing house, but we have no idea what their parents do.
This isn’t so much a problem, but the movie never mentions what Lee and Noah’s parents do to afford this audacious house. Honestly, I’m more interested in their parents finances than anything else in the entire movie.
Elle ends up dancing on a table at Noah’s party and starts stripping in front of everyone.
In what’s clearly a nod to “10 Things I Hate About You,” Elle gets incredibly drunk after Noah tells her to leave and starts striping down on the pool table. One of the most frustrating things about “The Kissing Booth” is how little we know about the characters despite Elle’s frequent voiceovers. The movie never explains if this is typical behaviour for Elle or if she’s acting out and and trying to get a reaction from Noah.
Elle wakes up in Noah’s bed and assumes they slept together.
When Elle blacks out after drinking, she wakes up in Noah’s bed and is wearing his shirt. Immediately, she checks to see that she’s still wearing her underwear and is clearly relieved. However, when Noah walks in wearing nothing but a towel, she still seems to think they might have fooled around together even though she wasn’t in a position to consent. Thankfully, Noah actually had Elle’s interest at heart and informs her he actually slept in another bedroom.
The movie does more backflips to get Elle in another state of undress.
Lee and Elle get in a paint fight while working on their kissing booth for the school carnival (I can’t believe we haven’t even gotten to the damn kissing booth yet). While covered in paint, Elle accidentally wanders into the boys locker room and takes off her shirt before she realises where she is. Noah is horrified by all the boys gawking at her and demands she get out, which really isn’t the most unreasonable demand.
But Elle takes it as a challenge and decides to strut her stuff around the room, much to the delight of horny onlookers. It’s a moment that reeks of faux empowerment since she’s only doing it to get a reaction out of Noah.
Finally, more than an hour into the movie audiences finally see the actual kissing booth.
Earlier in the movie, Lee and Elle decide they want to run a kissing booth for their school’s charity carnival fundraiser. The actual kissing booth is a trope audiences frequently see in pop culture (“The O.C.,” “She’s The Man,” “Glee“), but it’s far less common in real life and feels especially out of place in a modern high school setting.
But the story of the movie’s kissing both is also super convoluted. Basically, Lee and Elle are able to convince the student body council to approve the booth by promising “A-list talent.” That means getting the OMG Girls to participate and promising them that Noah will also be puckering up. Of course, this is also a plan to put Lee in a position to be able to kiss the object of his affection, Mia, whom Elle tells him, “Basically the only way she’d make out with you is if you paid for it.”
Blindfolded teenagers make out with other students while their classmates cheer them on.
This is just a really weird concept and I’m not willing believe any school would be cool with this in 2018. But believability aside, Lee’s plan to kiss Mia fails and this totally random girl we’ve never seen before steps up to make out with him. She’s literally never been on screen before! I thought her name was Amy, but it’s Rachel.
She exists only to show the the audience that Lee isn’t secretly in love with Elle like you may have thought – he actually just wants to control her. In fact, after the OMG Girls’ scheme goes awry, Elle and Noah wind up making out in the booth in front of everyone. Elle knows this is going to freak Lee out even though we’ve established he’s not secretly in love with her. He tells her, “Just don’t end up grinding coochies with my brother or I’ll literally never talk to you again.”
Elle can’t decide if she should give Noah a chance and makes the world’s worst pro/con list.
Doesn’t seem like a difficult decision, but you know, he smells yummy!
Noah has major anger issues and can’t stop getting into fights, but that doesn’t stop him from getting into Harvard.
We’re going to fast-forward through a ton of this movie because there is just so much crammed into its 105-minute runtime.
Elle and Noah decide to give a relationship a try, but they decide to keep it secret from everyone. They have sex for the first time and they do it under the Hollywood sign. It’s supposed to be super romantic, but it was probably cold and uncomfortable.
But before all this, we see Noah’s anger problem flare up in quick succession when he tries to once again rescue Elle by pummelling yet another guy, and then screams at her when she won’t get in his car. Noah’s actions should be big red flags for Elle to stay the hell away from him, but he manages to convince her he’ll change for her.
Again, one the most frustrating parts of this movie is that much of the character’s behaviour is never explained. The audience never gets any sense of why Noah is so angry and constantly lashes out with violence. Nor does the movie give the audience any inkling that he might be especially smart and the revelation that he’s been accepted to Harvard comes totally out of nowhere.
Lee is just as possessive and controlling as Noah when it comes to Elle.
Noah and Elle spend weeks enjoying their clandestine relationship, but when Lee finds them kissing, he loses it. Again, Lee is ostensibly in a happy relationship with Rachel, but he can’t deal with the fact that Elle is dating his brother. He apparently views Elle as more of an object than a person and he simply doesn’t want to share with Noah.
After Lee and Noah throw down in their front yard, Lee tells Elle, “You know, my whole life Noah has gotten everything that he has ever wanted. The only thing that I had that he didn’t was you. And now he has that too.”
Lee and Elle reconcile through Dance Dance Revolution.
Lee and Elle grew up playing a DDR-type game – it’s simultaneously weird and delightful! They make up after dancing to Ni-Ni’s “Be Together” and it’s the best part of the movie.
Every other teen movie cliche is crammed into the movie’s remaining 20 minutes.
Most generic prom theme ever!
Noah shows up to the prom to declare his love for Elle.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” plays at the prom in an obvious nod to “The Breakfast Club” (also Molly Ringwald plays Lee and Noah’s mum and she really deserves better roles) and Noah, who has been skipping school for the last few weeks, tells Elle he loves her. She runs away.
It’s not just prom, it’s also Elle and Lee’s birthday.
“The Kissing Booth” is really just a parade of cliches, so of course Elle (and Lee’s) birthday coincides with prom. When Elle gets home she opens a box that contains a baby photo signed by her dead mother wishing her a happy birthday.
Are we done yet? No! There’s still a costume birthday party!
I’m not really sure what Elle is supposed to be, but Lee is dressed as Batman and this will become important later. Elle confesses to Lee that she wants to be with Noah even if it means hurting him. Lee has had a change of heart and tells Elle that Noah already left for Harvard, but he’ll help her find him.
Noah pretends he’s Lee by wearing his Batman costume and Elle pours her heart out to him.
It’s frankly alarming that Elle can’t tell the difference between Lee and Noah, even in a Batman mask.
If you think this movie doesn’t have a cliche airport goodbye scene, think again.
After Elle and Noah make up, they spend “every second together” right up until he heads off to Harvard, which still might be the least believable plot point in this film. They tearfully say goodbye at Los Angeles International Airport. At least the movie acknowledges how predictable the inclusion of the scene is as Elle says to Noah, “And don’t turn back for a final wave. That is way too cheesy and romantic.”
The ending is the most refreshing part of the movie.
Elle rides off into the sunset on Noah’s motorcycle thinking to herself via the film’s millionth voice-over that “everything suddenly seemed possible.” She marvels at how “all this happened just because of a kissing booth.” The movie finally ends.
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