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Review: Beauty in “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is in the eye of the beholder

Netflix original film released on Feb. 12, 2020, just in time for Valentine’s Day, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is the hotly anticipated sequel to the streaming platform’s wildly popular 2018 release, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Fans praised the first film for its visuals and cute story. Both films are based on a trilogy of books by author Jenny Han, and fans of this series were anxious to see whether this new installment would live up to their expectations, serving as a worthy adaptation of the second book.

“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” stars Lana Condor as high school student Lara Jean Covey, who recently began dating Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo. The film focuses on their relationship and Lara Jean’s struggles when an old crush comes back into her life. Condor and Centineo share good chemistry on screen, and viewers hoping for a sweet story about young love will be satisfied, but the film only tries to be what it is: a romantic comedy. 

Other featured actors include Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose, John Corbett as Lara Jean’s father and Holland Taylor as Stormy, a woman whom Lara Jean befriends at her volunteering site. Unfortunately, most of these characters do not get much screen time — in particular, many scenes from the book with Lara Jean and Stormy were cut. This becomes problematic towards the end of the film when Stormy was supposed to play an important role, as the viewers have seen little of her.

There are a few other character changes, but, for the most part, these are minor and help to streamline the story. One aspect of the characterization that proved distracting was the ages of some of the actors who portray high school students; Trevor, one of Lara Jean’s classmates, for example, is played by Ross Butler, who is 29 years old.

Like its predecessor, the film has gorgeous visuals which capture and enhance the whimsical romance of the source novels, increasing its value as an adaptation. The sets, with standouts including Lara Jean’s room and the retirement home, are colorful and layered with items that add charm to the film as a whole. Lara Jean’s outfits in the first film were admired by viewers, and costume designer Lorraine Carson pulled no punches for this installment, with soft and refined silhouettes that fit her character’s personality. 

But the film’s visuals in creating Lara Jean’s appearance were almost too perfect. She seems to wake up with flawless makeup, including false eyelashes, and some of her hairstyles, while beautiful like her outfits, would be extremely difficult to maintain in real life. Of course, this is par for the course in American films, and there is something to be said about these choices adding to the film’s dreaminess and idealism.

However, at an emotionally dramatic point in the film, Lara Jean has messy hair and less makeup for the first time. It is up to the viewer to decide whether her appearance throughout the film is in part a demonstration of her emotional state, or an unattainable ideal that suggests looking less than perfect must mean that something is wrong.

“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is a fun and lighthearted romantic comedy. As an adaptation, it has its advantages, including its aesthetics and heartwarming character interactions, as well as its drawbacks, such as some of its character choices. Overall, viewers in search of something easy and pleasant to watch should check it out, but others looking for more serious themes or commentary should move on.