To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You February 21, 2020
1 Hr., 42 Mins.
o All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) has second-movie-in-a-trilogy syndrome. Sitting between 2018’s unexpectedly everywhere To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the upcoming Always and Forever, Lara Jean, it’s a movie one cannot imagine audiences returning to unless, for instance, it’s part of a marathon viewing of some sort. It’s too much of an extended postscript to its predecessor,
too much of an appetizer for what’s to come in its follow-up. (All these movies are based on a popular YA book series by Jenny Han.)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before had an engaging, memorable romantic-comedy premise. In the movie, sensible teen Lara Jean (Lana Condor), who has never been in a relationship, finds a handful of never-supposed-to-be-sent love letters accidentally mailed out. It was a nightmare situation that might have remained a nightmare situation if, at the end of the movie, she didn’t wind up dating one of her accidental epistolary pals, cuddly footballer Peter (Noah Centineo).
P.S. I Still Love You is driven by two conflicts: Lara Jean’s discomfort, possibly-incoming complete disillusionment with being Peter’s girlfriend; her increasing dubiousness about the relationship after another one of the letter recipients — the too-good-to-be-true John (Jordan Fisher) — comes back into her life. He makes it clear that he relished the note; he and Lara Jean serendipitously wind up volunteering at the same nursing home to get their community-service hours in.
P.S. I Still Love You so much hinges on its troubles that it never really breathes. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a stellar recapitulation of the John Hughes-helmed teen comedies of the 1980s. Where it could have been a bit glib about its throwbackishness, as a lot of tribute-style movies tend to be, it was instead easygoing and funny — earnest in the right ways. Ever-rewatchable, I could imagine people turning to it for comfort in future decades the way Gen X-ers and their kin have often with movies like Sixteen Candles
(1984). If I had my way, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would have been a standalone movie. But, of course, if a wildly popular film based on a beloved book comes with two literary sequels, standing alone isn’t an option.
P.S. I Still Love You by design cannot have the same highs as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before because it has been born as the sequel that has embedded in it all the residual uncertainties from the first movie and early sneak peeks for the next movie. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before culminated in the formation of a relationship; Always and Forever, Lara Jean will inexorably be the feature to have the definitive happy ending. P.S. I Still Love You has to be the purgatory of the series. It's the inner-monologue movie, the unsureness movie, the hurt-feelings movie. Our heroine is never really allowed to be at ease, except for at the feature’s very end, when all seems well again — that is with the “for now” caveat. This is a movie that we cannot categorize via the good/bad binary;
whether it’s sufficient is what’s important. P.S. I Still Love You is effective. If it has any lingering impact, it will probably be related to the bland, persistent soundtrack, which is awkwardly forced on us as another character in the movie and will live on, for many, as a Spotify playlist to listen to.
The film is not without its pleasures. Condor remains a charismatic and intuitive actress — among the most immediately lovable of modern rom-com leads. Centineo, though having transformed from affable heartthrob to noticeably-desperate-to-be-a-heartthrob heartthrob in the aftermath of the first movie, wins us over again. A second time he fulfills the Jake Ryan archetype comfortably. Series newcomer Fisher, with that big smile and impossible-to-question niceness, is so likable that when he unsurprisingly is redefined as a placeholder by the end of the film, it was that redefinition that stuck most with me, more so than Lara Jean’s climactic epiphany.
Adding to the limited pleasures are the lots of nice-looking overhead shots of carefully prepared meals; elsewhere the feature often consciously tries to epitomize what might be described as Wes-Anderson-meets-a-dream-Pinterest-board core — more effortfully arty than a natural extension of its makers’ vision. There is much hyper-organization of sets and fixation on tiny details: ponytails and shoelaces being gingerly tied; the way a kiss on the school track looks in relation to the yellow-clad joggers making it pop on camera; a crimson-red dress sticking out in a roomful of dull colors. The movie is yearning to be described, to borrow an overused descriptor, as aesthetically pleasing. I don’t think that the charm of actors and being pretty to look at are always enough to make for that good a movie, but since it’s difficult to characterize P.S. I Still Love You as either good or bad anyway, these things will have to do. C+