Originally released on Netflix on July 24, 2020
Welcome back, everyone! As always, if you haven’t seen the film yet, this is your warning that there are spoilers in this review.
Last week I reviewed Midsommar (2019) and I am almost relieved that this week’s topic is a lot lighter. The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) picks up where we left off in the last film, with Elle Evans (Joey King) explaining how the last few months had gone for her and Noah (Jacob Elordi) after finishing the school year. They spent the summer at Noah’s parents’ beach house, until it was time that he left for Harvard. Elle made the choice that they were probably going to end because of the distance, so she didn’t want to be that girlfriend that didn’t give him any space, so she focused on hanging out with Lee (Joel Courtney) and his girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young).
Senior year begins with Elle paying tribute to her junior year start, with the lack of needing the back ups to her back ups. Upon their arrival to school, everyone is staring at Elle as though something terrible has happened to her, and she finds out it is because they all just assumed that her relationship with Noah was over because he moved away. Now it wouldn’t be a teen rom-com without possible new love interests coming into the picture. On Noah’s end, it is Chloe Winthrop (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and for Elle it is Marco V. Peña (Taylor Zakhar Perez), and suddenly the stage is set for one of the main arcs of the storyline to form. Another important point to note, is that Lee and Elle have planned to go to UC Berkeley since they were kids, but Noah convinces Elle to apply to Harvard, so that they could be closer to each other again and suddenly we as the audience are left to wonder whether Elle learned her lesson about keeping secrets in the last film.
Elle visits Noah in Boston, and all is well until she meets Chloe and her own insecurities flair up, this met with the fact she finds a stray earring under Noah’s bed while she is packing to return home, plant the seeds of their relationship turmoil for the remainder of the movie. Here lies the issue: Elle doesn’t tell Noah right away that she found the earring, and when she does, and he swears nothing is happening, she chooses to believe him instead of talking to him about where the earring could have come from. Noah, knowing she’s already feeling insecure, begins to lie to her about his friendship with Chloe in the hopes of not arguing about it anymore, but the lack of communication on both of their ends was a recipe for disaster from the very beginning. On the other side of the storyline is that Elle needs money to go to college, so she and Lee join this Dance Dance Revolution contest, which begins taking up all of their time, causing more of a strain on Lee and Rachel’s relationship because Rachel doesn’t want Elle there all the time. Lee, instead of talking to Elle about this, pretends to hurt his ankle and gets her to team up with the new student, Marco, who just so happens to be really good at the game as well. Then obviously, Marco and Elle grow closer right before our very eyes, there’s even a montage of Noah and Elle growing closer to their prospective love interests.
Rachel explodes on Elle at the Halloween dance, believing that Elle was told by Lee to give them space but chose not to. Thanksgiving rolls around, and everything seemingly falls apart. Elle and Marco participate in the competition, and they even up kissing on stage, in front of Noah, who Elle wasn’t aware showed up to support her. Lee found Elle’s application to Harvard, and grows angry that she kept it from him. Rachel still isn’t speaking to Elle, and to make matters far worse, Noah brings Chloe home with him, and they are all sitting at the table at Thanksgiving together. Heated words are exchanged, Noah realizes what conclusion Elle came to when finding the earring and finding out that it belonged to Chloe, and how it must have looked to her, but he doesn’t try and explain to her what the truth was. Chloe is actually the voice of reason for him, and explains things to him from the perspective of Elle. In the end, Elle has a conversation with Marco at the kissing booth, about how she loves Noah and she leaves to go find him. Unfortunately, he also left to go find her and they end up in different places. Chloe and Elle share a heart to heart, and Noah and Elle reconcile at the gazebo from the first film. Months pass, and Lee, Rachel and Elle are graduating, and it is after the ceremony that Lee and Noah ask Elle if she received her application decisions. As Marco is watching her from afar, admitting that he still believes she is worth it, she tells them that she was waitlisted to both universities, but we the audience learn afterwards that she was accepted into both, and the sequel film has been laid out for us. Will Elle go to Berkeley with Lee, or will she go to Harvard with Noah?
The movie’s plot was pretty transparent from the very beginning, though at one point I thought that Chloe’s character was going to fit the stereotype that she was the reason an earring was found, because she wanted to sabotage the relationship between Elle and Noah. It was nice to see that Chloe and Noah were only just friends, but on that same train of thought, if they were just friends, I do think that all the little looks we as the audience watch Chloe make throughout the film, definitely did not scream platonic. That could have easily just been to throw us off course, and it worked since I wasn’t expecting them to have a relationship that could be parallel to Lee and Elle (without the years of history between them.) Another plot twist was when we find out that Elle was actually accepted into the both; the moment we learn this fact, I knew there was going to be another film.
One thing that stuck out to me during my rewatch of both films, is the striking lack of diversity. Apart from Chloe, Marco and one of the football players, I did not see many people of color given any screen time. In this film however, there was a gay couple that we saw coming together throughout the film, which I could appreciate because the school’s acceptance of them was heartwarming, and that particular storyline, no matter how small, wasn’t treated as a punchline. I think the producers and casting directors could do better. It reminded me far too much of P.S. I Still Love You (2020) where the new love interest is shown to have a lot more personality than the original, only to be tossed aside for the original. Though, side note, I do see bits of Noah in Marco, due to the fact he can be seen being impulsive and rash at the homecoming game when he chose to talk to Noah. Do I still like Noah and Elle? Of course, but I also really liked the dynamic between Elle and Marco, it didn’t seem like she had to change anything about herself. I’m interested to see where the story goes because I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Marco, and of course I want to know where Elle decides to go. Personally, I’m hoping for Berkeley because it would be easier on her dad financially, and because it has always been her dream.
Have any of you seen the film? What are your thoughts?