Teen angst. It’s an unyielding, tortuous right of passage. The implements of the torture, fashion, phones, technology, may change and evolve. But from Rebel Without A Cause to Sixteen Candles to Netflix’s new To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, teen angst remains the same.
The streamer is putting out the new film as part of their Summer of Love. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the teens it targets haven’t watched decades worth of coming of age movies so they aren’t over it.
We had a Cocktail Convo with Lana Condor, who plays the shy, boy-obsessed Lara Jean. Lana playing Lara? We’re gonna mix this up if we over-cocktail!
Lara never acts on her crushes, she just writes them a letter, addresses it, and then stashes it under her bed. It’s practical, if not particularly results-oriented. “Lara Jean has such a good heart,” Lana told us, “and she’s such a pure.. She has really pure intentions. It was quite an honor to play someone with that pure of a heart.”
As you can guess, the letters are found by a meddling little sister and mailed out, forcing Lara to confront her fears and her crushes. Only two, including her sister’s ex-boyfriend, are around and heterosexual, so it’s not like she’s bombarded with rejection or willing suitors. It also saves on the casting budget!
It’s not just shyness driving Lara Jean. She lost her mom at a young age, and is afraid to open herself up to that kind of potential loss again. “And that’s Lara Jean’s first instinct is to not to put herself out there because she’s afraid of getting hurt again. For me as an actor, that’s such a relatable, universal experience.”
Becoming one with the character was difficult. “It’s challenging, because when you lose someone, or you have heartbreak, when you’re young, you, you’re first instinct is to shut down, and to shut that away.”
Luckily, Lana’s not had to deal with that exact scenario, telling us “I loved playing that. I can’t relate to having lost a parent, but I could only imagine that heartbreak and that sorrow.”
Girl Next Door
Lana’s got a few credits under her belt, but most have been characters that are really, really out there. She told us playing a normal angsty teen took her in a different direction. “I have never played a normal girl before. That was actually very challenging. To just play your girl next door, normal, normal girl.”
But when asked how she felt about the whole process, she summed it up beautifully, telling The Cocktail “I am wonderful. Living the dream.”
Some Things Never Change
As we said at the top of the post, teen angst always survives from one generation to the next. And while this movie feels like it’s following a tried and true formula, it’s no Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club. But that’s okay.
Even though it’s the tweens and teens that’ll be watching, Lana thinks the parents who pay the Netflix bill will relate. “I think parents are gonna be transported back to their high school times. And I’ve actually talked to people, adults, who said ‘this brought me back to high school and I wonder if I’d written letters to people if I’d have fallen in love.'”
Basically, she thinks this will have no trouble crossing generational lines. “I think people in high school and middle school watching, and college, I think they, it’s very relatable. I mean she goes through all the same problems everyone else does, you know. Except that she’s a little bit more exposed, with the letters. It’s a universal film, and I think people can relate to those feelings of, you know, not being able to fit in, or feeling awkward in your own skin.”
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Red Wine for the parents (hey, gotta set a classy example) and some Boone’s Farm for the kids, as long as they’re over 21 or a reasonable facsimile thereof.