A few weeks back, I was ushered into a pastel world saturated in generic, upbeat pop music and Pinterest-approved stationery. If you're already confused, now's your chance to escape from this unscathed. I'm talking about the To All the Boys film series, based on the trilogy of novels of the same name. My viewing was, as you might expect, a guilt-riddled experience, like dousing chocolate syrup right into the ice cream carton as opposed to using a bowl. While I'm not immune to the charms of a shamelessly entertaining teen rom-dram-com1, I did feel a certain type of way about how things shook out for our beloved Lara Jean Song Covey. Let's sift through some of the highlights- for reference, here is an oversimplified recap of each movie, courtesy of summary searches on Google2 (spoilers aplenty):
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
A teenage girl's love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her life.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
As her relationship with Peter continues to grow, Lara Jean reunites with another recipient of one of her old love letters.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever
Senior year of high school takes center stage as Lara Jean returns from a family trip in Korea and considers her college plans -- with and without Peter.
So, Lara Jean Song Covey's (Lana Condor) secret stash of impassioned, undelivered love letters are sent to the former crushes addressed in each note. The recipients include the following boys (she loved before):
Because why wouldn't this happen, Lara Jean and Peter begin "dating," in an effort to simultaneously (A) take the heat off Lara Jean's exposed crushing on her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh, and (B) make Peter's ex-girlfriend Gen (who happens to also be LJ's ex-best friend and nemesis) jealous. What could possibly go wrong?! In a sUrPriSiNg turn of events, everyone becomes jealous of everyone else in a way that only makes sense if you're trying to not make sense of things. It's all fine though, because Lara Jean and Peter perservere through it all as the credits roll. "D'awww, that was cute. I'm glad that whole letter kerfuffle worked out."
Now before I continue, let me be clear: this is not a Peter Kavinsky take-down op-ed. I said some semi-regrettable things when watching last weekend3, but I'm not here to re-evaluate Peter's merits and shortcomings as a partner for Lara Jean. In a world without a sequel, I think I could 'ship LJ & PK.
But luckily, we do live in a world with a sequel, a sequel with a damn-compelling alternative for our girl. For all of the anti-Peters out there, here is a chance to set things straight. In enters, John Ambrose.
Oh, John Ambrose. Sensitive. Funny. Sweet. Caring. Smart. Talented. Charming. Handsome. Driven. Confident. The list goes on. And then it goes on some more. And then you keep reading on, and you realize that he's the kind of boy you want to bring home to meet your parents on Sunday. Because if Saturdays are for the Boys, then Sundays are for the Gentlemen. And without question, John Ambrose is a Gentleman.
The second movie is a long emotional volley for Lara Jean as she weighs her feelings for Peter and John Ambrose. Peter has more than enough missteps along the way to further complicate Lara Jean's ongoing indecision. I get it, he's trying and failing (because he's a high school boy), but c'mon, how many breaks are we going to give this guy? Lest we forget the scrunchie debacle, the hot tub conundrum, the plagiarized poem... On the other hand, John Ambrose is a living, breathing pilot light- ready to ignite love's eternal flame at a moment's notice (even though he is naively misguided thanks to Lara Jean's deception and failure to mention that she is in a relationship with Peter, his best friend from years ago big yiiikes). Did I mention the scene where JA is freestylin' on the piano and casually whispering sweet nothings to LJ at.the.same.time- what's not to like???
And just when it looks like LJ & JA might actually happen, Peter finally (and just barely, I might add) gets his shit together. Lara Jean leaves our boy John Ambrose out in the cold (quite literally) and takes Peter back. Needless to say, I was disappointed. And you should be, too. Our girl LJ is pure of heart and deserves the same + more in return. I'm speaking to all of the Lara Jeans out there: You CAN do better, DON'T settle for less, and ask for MORE because you deserve it. Life's too short to be Kavinsky'd4.
I should mention that the third movie covers Lara Jean's and Peter's senior year, including the planning for their collegiate future, together or apart. And though the final sequences are satisfying for LJ & PK fans, I remained hopeful that John Ambrose would at least be mentioned at somepoint during the last movie (he was not). C'mon, Lara Jean. What's that about? Why can't you at least be friends? Oh, that's right, because you're afraid to look back directly into the JA Sun, a star shining so bright we're all defenseless to his gravitational pull. John Ambrose is going places, places where someone will appreciate him for all his skill and tenderness.
Ultimately, I'm happy for Lara Jean; Peter did get his act together and might've forged a path forward for their future together. And yet, sometimes our rom-com leads end up with the wrong person at the end of the movie... and that's ok. We are left wondering what could have been? How might things have gone differently? Know that I'm now holding out hope for a fourth movie, one where its revealed that John Ambrose transferred to NYU to win back LJ's heart once and for all.
Always remember this: Josh Sanderson walked so Peter Kavinsky could run. And Peter Kavinsky ran, so John Ambrose could effortlessly walk in and steal yo' girl.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is reserved for the Gen Z'ers in this movie old-shaming drinking games involving beer, pong balls, and red cups. What the hell is that about? They can cancel the laugh/cry emoji and true crime podcasts all they want, but I will not let them slander the great pasttime of my college years. It's fine, whatever. Go drink your seltzers and sit around bored for all I care.
Per Hopewell's recommendation, I cozied up and had their Winter Lager. It's been a cold couple of weeks, and this malty, nutty, caramelly-sweet symphony provided a lingering respite. Bravo!
Hopewell Brewing Co.
Lager - Munich Dunkel | 6.0% ABV
Rom (romantic) Dram (drama) Com (comedy). Which is the best way to pronounce these?
You better belive this is going to be something I use going forward.↩
"John Ambrose is a thoroughbred; she (Lara Jean) just went dumpster diving for Peter."↩
Not really sure what that even means, but it sounded good.↩