FEBRUARY 20 — Even though I’ll always belong to the physical format camp in the streaming vs physical debate, one of the great blessings of the current streaming wars between platforms both giant and small like Netflix, Prime, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+ and lots more is the resulting clamour for content, almost any kind of content at that, to fill up their respective rosters.
Previously mid-budget star-studded dramas were just Oscar-bait (because of their waning powers at the box office) but this never-ending battle for new content has resulted in more and more of them being made as “originals” for one of the streaming platforms.
And this is just one example of the many genres that have more or less died out in the cinemas thanks to the prevalence of superhero movies and established franchises hoovering up all the dollars at the global box-office.
A genre experiencing an unexpected (but totally welcome) renaissance in recent times is of course that thing I’m sure most of us all love called teen movies/teen rom-coms.
A staple since the 80s thanks to films like Say Anything, Sixteen Candles and Fast Times At Ridgemont High, the 90s also had its teen rom-com moment with films like 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait and lots more.
Their waning power at the box-office meant that fewer and fewer of them got made as the 2010s rolled in, so we must absolutely thank Netflix for bringing it back with hits like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser and The Perfect Date, to name just a few.
It’s now 2021 and it looks like that renaissance is still showing no signs of slowing down, with not only Netflix but also Amazon Prime getting in on the teen rom-com action for this year’s Valentine’s Day, and Hulu dropping their own candidate The Ultimate Playlist Of Noise a bit earlier in January.
Having watched these last week when they were released in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, let’s see how these modern day teen rom-coms fare, shall we?
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To All The Boys: Always and Forever
To truly emphasise what a renaissance this has been for teen rom-coms, consider this: has there ever been a teen rom-com trilogy that you can think of before this one?
Aside from American Pie, that is, and even then, those movies are technically more teen sex comedies in the vein of Animal House instead of the teen rom-com staples like Say Anything or any of the ones by John Hughes.
So for a movie as fluffy, earnest and inconsequential as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before to have grown into a movie trilogy really says something about this new teen rom-com renaissance.
This final movie in the trilogy sees Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kaminsky edging closer towards the end of high school as they’re now in senior year and college applications/acceptances are the order of the day.
Hoping to go to Stanford together, their plan hits a huge bump on the road when Lara Jean is rejected. Anyone who’s ever been a teenager will recognise the little heartbreaks here, and your enjoyment of the film will totally depend on how much you can empathise with the challenges faced by the characters here and whether you think Lara Jean’s dilemma here — personal growth vs prioritising a relationship — is worthy enough to be filmed or merely adolescent trifle.
I loved it, and was fully along for the ride throughout the film, thanks to the lead characters’ chemistry and relatability, and for a fluffy teen lovefest, there really isn’t much you can complain about with this one.
The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things
If the To All The Boys trilogy on Netflix is a bit too fluffy and cheesy for you, and you’d prefer something a bit more thoughtful and soulful when it comes to your diet of teen rom-coms, well Amazon Prime may have just the thing for you in The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things.
Directed by Ian Samuels (who also helmed Sierra Burgess Is A Loser), this film is the latest in quite a long line of films that have been drinking from the fountain of Groundhog Day.
Just last year we had the wonderful Palm Springs, and of course the Happy Death Day franchise, also mining the same material, so we’re probably very close to reaching critical mass when it comes to Groundhog Day-inspired films.
But, setting a teen romance within the Groundhog Day scenario (of waking up and reliving the same day over and over again, if you haven’t seen that classic) provides more than enough relatively “fresh” material for the film to explore even while operating within the strict confines of a teen movie.
The film opens with Mark (Kyle Allen) living the same day so many times already that he has basically memorised everything that will happen, which basically results in him almost sleepwalking through life.
Enter Margaret (Kathryn Newton), whom he has never met before, and who’s also experiencing the same “temporal anomaly” that he does, which means that he now has a friend to get through the day with, who doesn’t “reset” the next morning, and who will of course slowly become the object of his affection.
Just like Mark’s day, almost everything in this film is predictable if you’ve seen enough teen rom-coms and those Groundhog Day descendants, but just like your favourite comfort food, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.