The Kissing Booth 3 is an ode to the final summer
You’re reading Now Streaming, a weekly newsletter from Michael Sun, full of what to watch, read, and consume this weekend. It’s part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get three free newsletters in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.
In case it wasn’t clear: The Kissing Booth is now a fully fledged adult! It’s packing its bags, it’s leaving for college, and it’s sloughing off its past. Even the titular lip-smacking contraption only makes its cameo for thirty seconds in this movie, an appropriate, surprisingly melancholic send-off for the teen series that was. Let’s say goodbye:
The Kissing Booth 3
It takes the last instalment of The Kissing Booth just seven minutes to needle-drop Radical Face’s ‘Welcome Home, Son’. You’ll know it when you hear it: the plaintive, open-throated vocalisations; the wind chimes echoing in the distance from a deep-seated memory; the sad, stroppy guitar driving the whole thing along with the sheer force of angst alone. This is a song that’s designed for the screen, as if alchemised in a lab somewhere to accompany teenage breakdowns, teary-eyed farewells, cars driving dramatically through shaded forests. You’ve heard it in Skins and The Blacklist and Nikon commercials.
In The Kissing Booth 3, it soundtracks a very literal homecoming: the family beach house is about to be sold, and our core trio — extremely indecisive Elle (Joey King), hot boyfriend Noah (Jacob “Euphoria” Elordi), and puppy-dog best friend Lee (Joel Courtney) — are rifling through its contents, untouched for the last decade. They rummage through the detritus one last time, discovering long-forgotten mementos: sepia-toned photographs of their childhood holidays, a doorknob that doubles as a pretend-diamond ring.
There’s an overwhelming sense of finality throughout it all — an unshakeable, elegiac undercurrent beneath every scene, even when the film gets going into its classic Kissing Booth antics. Just as we’re waving farewell to these characters, they’re saying (or more like yelling and shouting) a final ode to their friendship before they head off — perhaps on separate paths, perhaps to different colleges than initially planned. This is the last time things will be the way they are. This is the last time they’ll play that Dance Dance Revolution game at the local arcade; this is the last time they’ll spray whipped cream and maraschino cherries on each other and call it a human sundae (don’t ask). This is the last summer: that fated time in the hallowed halls of American teen content, as much about coming-of-age as it is about delaying the inevitable burdens that come with maturity.
And what a summer it is. To patch things up after a brief sulk, Elle and Lee decide to finally check off the entirety of their childhood bucket list. Because this is The Kissing Booth, that list consists of sky-diving, sumo wrestling, quote-unquote epic blanket fort-ing, and...dressing up as Mario Kart characters to have a literal 20-person drag race down at the local F1 circuit? All in a day’s work in the KBCU (Kissing Booth Cinematic Universe).
The Kissing Booth has been gleefully unhinged since time immemorial, though this time round, I’ll admit there’s a little more method to the madness. Namely, the mounting pressure on Elle as she’s torn between fulfilling these madcap adventures with Lee and her relationship commitments with Noah. She ~ contains multitudes ~ but she can’t have it all. And, like always, she has to choose: between BF and BFF, between colleges, between herself and the expectations of those around her. As Molly Ringwald (in her continuing iconic guest appearance) says: “I’ve never heard you talk about what you want.”
The Kissing Booth 3 is both a farewell and an opportunity, for long-time fans, to see these characters finally forge their own paths. Like the Radical Face track, it’s a well-worn tune, but it still hits every time we hear it.
The Kissing Booth 3 is now streaming.
Watch these too:
To All The Boys, Always and Forever: another trilogy closer that sees its main characters heading off to college with sweet, sometimes unexpected consequences.
The F**k-It List, a teen comedy about a valedictorian who takes matters into his own hands after a prank blows up out of proportion, deciding to complete the activities he never let himself do at the risk of sacrificing his straight-As. As in The Kissing Booth, it’s a list driven entirely by urgency — before he graduates and becomes an adult.
And look, it would be blasphemy not to include the actual movie called The Last Summer, a K. J. Apa-starring rom-com that captures the summer before college in all its fleeting haziness.
And now, a brand-new part of this newsletter. Normally, this is where I tell you everything I can’t stop thinking about (read: my brain worms), but from here on out, we’re folding our Close All Tabs newsletter into this section, so expect memes, articles, interviews, and other Internet ephemera about new releases. We doom-scroll so you don’t have to 💋
The internet can’t stop talking about:
Our search results after watching Paris Hilton’s new and extremely glitter-filled cooking show
Over at The Cut, this test kitchen for all of Paris’ recipes, from filet mignon to...uh…”sliving” blue marshmallows. Do not try this at home
On a completely different note: this Refinery29 interview with Kristine Stolakis, director of new Netflix doco Pray Away. Executive produced by Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum, it’s a harrowing portrait of conversion therapy through the voices of its survivors. Stolakis digs into why conversion therapy has been so difficult to disavow in some sectors of the U.S. “Even though they’re very misleading,” she says of its practitioners, “they’re very compelling.”