It's the second post of a double post week for MOVIE DIARY 2018, and we're doing something a little different. Cool and normal special guest Christine Friar (whose advocating for cutting your burger in half is essential) is here to talk about some true Netflix original garbage, and I'm bringing a longer than usual look at what is surely the blockbuster hit of the summer! Let's do it!
The Kissing Booth (2018)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: CHRISTINE FRIAR
Let’s get something out of the way right off the top, I did not like The Kissing Booth and I don’t expect you to either. It’s a more-or-less benign Netflix teen movie about a pair of (white, traitless) best friends named Elle and Lee who grow up together and abide by a set of “friendship rules” they’ve hand-written in a notebook. They have these rules memorized, and refer to them a lot in their day-to-day as a means of approving or disapproving of one another’s choices. “Remember rule number nine…” one might say to another at a party right before taking a Jell-O shot.
“Hm… sounds like a violation of rule twelve,” another might say, purse-lipped, during a morning carpool. There’s a lot of premise here and I’m going to try to make it sound logical, but if it doesn’t, just know it’s because this movie is bad.
The rules include things like “don’t fuck each other’s siblings” and “no matter how mad you are at your best friend, you have to forgive them if they give you ice cream.” Whatever. The point is these two are close, and have a weird kink where they let the other control their behavior and decisionmaking in public through the use of whatever the opposite of a safe word might be. “Rules.”
Things really pick up when Elle and Lee have to conceive of a fundraising tactic for their class and land on a kissing booth as an idea. The only problem? Elle ends up frenching Lee’s tough-guy older brother Noah in front of the whole school and liking it. Damn.
The reason I’m putting all of this information into your brain is because I need you to understand that this is, more or less, a typical D-level teen movie. Mechanically it’s not great, a lot of the scenes leave you saying, “Wait, what?” But it’s based off a YA novel, and functional enough to sit through if you wanted to. Two codependent nerds, newly pubertied out*, navigating what that means for their friendship. Fine.
What I’m really here to talk to you about is the opening montage. I recently went on a road trip with some friends, and one morning in our AirBnb we were scrolling through the Fire Stick’s suggested titles for something to throw on during breakfast. The Kissing Booth appeared, and one friend said, “Hey! I heard these actors have gotten quite famous on Instagram since this movie was released! Let’s see if it’s any good.”
We proceeded to take in the film’s first three minutes, initially in slack-jawed silence, then with intermittent “wait, what’s going on here”, and eventually with full-scream, snort-laugh hysteria.
This montage… the only way I can describe it is avant-garde. Elle inexplicably starts narrating the movie at her own birth, and then tries to quickly summarize all of the events that have taken place from that time until now—midway through high school. She shares milestones like dressing as a cowboy for Halloween, playing DDR with her best friend Lee, and peppers in some not-so-subtle hints at what’s to come. All of that’s fine, but then interspersed with the upbeat music and low-stakes life milestones, we also track Elle’s mother’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death.
So the beats go something like:
Went to the state fair
Finally figured out what my favorite mascara is
Put mom on a ventilator :-(
The tone oscillates with no sense of irony, the music record-scratches and pivots—momentarily—to something somber and reflective, before she hops back out just as easily as she hopped in.
Tried sesame chicken for the first time :~)
“REWIND IT!” I remember screaming while gasping for air the first time we watched. “GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE BATHROOM AND COME LISTEN TO THIS.”
It got better with every viewing. We rewound it again and again, four adult women, howling at the juxtaposition of these absurdly framed life events. It became a running joke through the trip, listing things that were as inconsequential as humanly possible, and putting them next to something specific and awful.
Switched to decaf
Aced my French final
Caught mom’s in-home aide stealing from the junk drawer :-(
It was, simply, a perfect scene. Unexpectedly tactless and un-nuanced and divorced from how life-changing it is to watch someone you love die. The rest of the movie isn’t worth your time (there’s a lot about gender and the emotional burden our culture unfairly places on women that I could get into, but WHEN AM I NOT READY TO GET INTO THAT), but for the rest of our road trip, every city we stopped in, we ended up playing that opening scene for a new room of people.
Seattle? We sat my friend Will down and said, “Have you seen The Kissing Booth?” He hadn’t.
Portland? My friend Rachel from high school got a taste of that sweet, sweet montage.
Vancouver? A friend’s ex-girlfriend got a four-person, tag-team description of the scene that probably didn’t quite do it justice, as there was no television readily available.
Every place we went, every room we shared it with, cackled along with us.
“This is... so stupid!” we’d always sigh between ragged breaths. And then we’d make up lists of our own. Get off on fucking each other up—being dark and light—taking hard-ass turns into the absolute bummer of our own mortality.
In a weird way that’s why you go on a road trip in the first place, right? To get staccato for a second. To take the rhythm of your days and your weeks and your months and say, hey, fuck off. I’m going to look at a waterfall. And drive across the border. And eat a regional delicacy. And, one day, yes, die. Not today though.
And while I’ll probably remember the waterfall, and maybe remember the regional delicacy, funnily enough—years from now—I know this goddamn bit is still gonna be lodged in my brain. That when I die and they scatter my ashes, some little speck of me is gonna blow—Pocahontas-like—to be stuck in traffic on a highway, blasting a Chingy song, trying to think of the darkest possible thing to say to make my friends laugh so hard they hurt.
Anyway, there’s absolutely no reason for you to ever watch The Kissing Booth on Netflix. But if you do, do it for the first three minutes. And do it with someone who fucking knows what’s up. ______
*There are—no exaggeration—more than 5 slow-pan reveals of this young actress’ tits and abs. She takes her shirt off for the slightest of water-based inconveniences. “Wow, your body really came in,” her classmates variedly remark every. single. time, like 45-year-old aunts at the beach.
Christine Friar is a tiny baby from Brooklyn, New York who is typing on the computer all by herself. You can find her on twitter.com/christinefriar and instagram.com/christinefriar, depending on how you like your content served.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
***THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS ONE OBVIOUSLY***
Tom Cruise is a maniac who is trying to destroy his body, and the best thing about the back half of the Mission: Impossible series has been Cruise using it as a platform for risking his life on camera. Fallout continues the grand tradition of Tom Cruise doing it for the Vine, and while the halo jump and Cruise’s broken ankle (from a routine by comparison building-to-building jump) have been the main subjects of pre-release buzz, there are quite a few others that had me screaming into the bright lights of the IMAX experience. The helicopter chase and subsequent helicopter crashes (plural!) literally had me making some of the most stupid stressed out faces that I typically reserve for rollercoasters or reality shows about plastic surgery.
The seemingly immortal (but not ageless) Ethan Hunt once again gets summoned for a mission of global security, one that has ties to the previous movie in the series. This time around there’s missing plutonium, a villain from the past, a friend from the past on a mysterious mission of her own, a lot of deep undercover intrigue, and CIA oversight in the form of giant mustachioed hunk Henry Cavill— it’s a recipe for disaster, but as Anthony Hopkins once said in Mission: Impossible 2: This is not “Mission: Difficult,” Mr. Hunt. It’s “Mission: Impossible.”
Fallout is interesting in that it wants to interrogate who’s really giving the IMF their orders, but I’m still not sure the movie is successful in reckoning with that. Main bad guy anarchist Solomon Lane is asks the question and we get taken on a tour of double crosses that prove his point— the people in charge care only about the status quo and they will do anything to maintain it. It’s a position that I probably agree with, but it’s also a movie, and as a fan of this movie, I’m a fan of the status quo of Ethan Hunt running around the world in high stress situations and keeping nuclear weapons from firing, so I’m trying to not look into it too hard. But Lane’s point stands and there’s some work to undermine it by revealing that
***SERIOUSLY BIG SPOILERS COMING UP THROUGH THE REST OF THIS THING PLEASE BE CAREFUL THE MOVIE J U S T CAME OUT***
Agent Walker (Henry Cavill, no longer able to fit into regular shirts) is a traitor working within the CIA to help Lane’s mission of destroying the world’s governments by planting seeds of doubt about Ethan being the real traitor. So, really, both the good guys and the bad guys are a bunch of liars and traitors and this back and forth back stabbing is status quo. If only there were some storied franchise hero who cared as much about individual lives as they did about accomplishing their mission!
We get these glimpses of Ethan’s thoughts and dreams/nightmares in Fallout, where we see that most of his interior life consists of worrying whether or not he can keep his estranged ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and by extension, the world, safe from the threat of international terrorism and nuclear war. That, and also that he’s very much against murdering cops even if it’s for the mission and even if he’s undercover, which, I don’t know, that seems a little suspect? I may be wrong, but I’m almost certain Ethan Hunt’s IMF teams have all been responsible for some dead cops or security guards along the way, particularly in Mission: Impossible 2 when it really turns into a John Woo movie and everyone suddenly has a gun. But whatever, the point is that in Fallout Ethan is the type of guy who cares about individual lives more than he does the mission. It’s a big burden on his soul and if you weren’t able to glean that from the dream sequences, don’t worry— the long suffering Luthor (Ving Rhames, who’s gotten away with being in every one of these movies without having to jump out of moving vehicle) is ready to explain it to you. Ethan’s the good guy, dummy! He can’t not be! Governments and terrorist organizations come and go, but Ethan Hunt remains true and eternal.
Look I don’t really want to talk about this but I think I have to mention that my man Tom Cruise is getting old. But here’s the thing, I don’t think that him doing all of these stunts and actions sequences comes off as try hard or unseemly. He’s been able to carve that as his specific niche over the last twenty two years, it’s weird to remember that there was a time when Tom Cruise wasn’t in action movies running for his life. Hands down the best thing that’s ever happened in the Mission: Impossible series is them testing the waters with Jeremy Renner in Ghost Protocol as a possible new field agent to take over from Tom Cruise and then Tom Cruise effectively deciding that he would never give up being Ethan Hunt, resulting in a demotion for Renner’s character in Rogue Nation. He’s not even mentioned in Fallout! This is Tom Cruise’s movie! Tom Cruise is Mission: Impossible! To have one without the other is like having a bike with no wheels, a dumpling with no filling! It’s useless!
This is why I find the Henry Cavill character, Agent Walker, so interesting. The trailers for this movie made me feel like Cavill would be a sort of frenemy to the IMF team. Usually those types of characters who are there to poke holes in the things we love about our main dudes (Agent Walker keeps talking about how the IMF is Halloween, just a bunch of adults running around playing dress up, etc.) tend to see the light by the end of it and come in to join the team, guns blazing. I figured it’d be one of those situations, and maybe somewhere down the line Cavill would join the team in earnest, a convert to the IMF’s philosophy of getting the job done as sloppily as possible while maintaining that they’re a team that runs on surgical precision, but Fallout is more of the philosophy of “No New Friends.” Over the course of the movie, we see Walker be a dick to everybody, try to frame Ethan Hunt, betray everyone, then get horribly disfigured in a helicopter crash before a final cliffside showdown with Ethan Hunt. I doubt he’s coming back for another one, but if he is there’s no way he’s going to be friends with anybody. I thought it was a pretty fun bait and switch, watching this character fully descend into being irredeemable. I would’ve loved to have seen more Henry Cavill in the next Mission: Impossible movie, but in a way it’s kind of better for him to have gone out in such a spectacular blaze of glory. We’ll always have this gif, at least.