Esther Zuckerman: When To All the Boys I've Loved Before dropped on Netflix in summer 2018, I was absolutely into its swoony take on the teen rom-com, a well-crafted John Hughes throwback, outfitted in Pinterest-perfect production design and starring two charming actors -- Lana Condor and Noah Centineo -- destined for stardom. This is all to say that I was excited for the sequel To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. More Noah Centineo smiling? More indie dream-pop? More of Lara Jean Covey's ideal fashion sense? Sign me up.
But as I watched the follow-up, eager for the much-hyped love triangle, I slowly realized the magic wasn't quite there this time. Centineo and Lana Condor's chemistry squeaks rather than sizzles. The narrative feels lackluster, with more hemming and hawing than actual action. In the entirety of the running time nothing of any significance really happens. And mostly I just wondered: Is Lara Jean actually the villain of this whole thing?
As a concept, P.S. I Still Love You makes a lot of sense. If the first To All the Boys follows a traditional rom-com path, P.S. I Still Love You makes us consider what happens after our central couple finally decides they are perfect for one another. Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky are now girlfriend and boyfriend. He takes her out to nice dinners, lets her drive his car, and buys her an incredibly thoughtful Valentine's Day gift. But she's preoccupied with his ex -- her former friend -- constantly wondering if he's just repeating moves. (Been there!) Complicating matters is the fact that she's received a letter from one of her former crushes, John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), who just happens to be volunteering at the same retirement home she is.
When I was a lonely, boyfriendless, high schooler I remember hearing lines like "if you just told [insert boy] that you like him, you'll probably find out he likes you back." Lara Jean is that fantasy come to life. But she's also... sort of an asshole here? She hides her flirtation with John Ambrose from Peter and hides her relationship with Peter from John Ambrose, ultimately forcing them to meet up in the most awkward way possible. Fine, the whole point of the movie is that she's got a lot of growing to do, and I appreciate that, but she never really owns her mistakes. Leanne, let me know: Am I the one being a jerk?