Lana Condor is the shining light at the centre of disappointing sequel P.S. I Still Love You. Why is she the perfect rom-com heroine in the To All the Boys series?
It’s easy for a romantic comedy to be sweet, playful, and endearing, but it takes a talent like Lana Condor in the lead to make a mish-mash of well-worn tropes feel fresh and memorable. Teen heartthrob Noah Centineo may have been considered the “breakout” of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but the hype machine never seemed to give Condor the credit she deserves as the beating heart of one of the most beloved rom-coms of recent years. In the film’s disappointing sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, Centineo’s casual charm feels like old news. Condor, however, is endlessly watchable, given the way she infuses cliche rom-com tropes with individuality, vulnerability, and spirit.
In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, heroine Lara Jean is cartoonishly wholesome and a hopeless romantic, yet Condor makes us love and relate to Lara Jean through little moments that reveal this introvert’s interiority. Consider when future boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Centineo) rocks up in his car to drive her to school in the morning: she spends the entire scene pursing her lips, desperately trying to hold back a smile of delight at the fact that she gets to pretend to be somebody’s girlfriend. Condor is pretty much the only element of P.S. I Still Love You, a sequel that lacks previous director Susan Johnson’s warm and authentic touch, that maintains the quality of To All the Boys. Lara Jean is the ball of energy that gives the film its winning spirit, all big gestures and bubbly excitement despite the film’s generic plot and aesthetic.
Condor’s showcase scene in P.S. I Still Love You is Lara Jean’s makeover reveal — a trope as old as teen movies that Condor makes her own. Lara Jean descends a staircase toward love interest John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) wearing a beautiful dress, her hair arranged in dazzling ringlets, her face full of makeup. Rather than playing into the cliche, Condor emphasises that when faced with a fairytale moment like this, Lara Jean relatably cannot keep her cool. Halfway down the stairs, Condor stops, plays with the hem of her dress, and looks up at the ceiling, collecting herself. It’s a tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it moment, but it’s emblematic of the detail in Condor’s portrayal. Lara Jean’s arc gives us all the warm and fuzzy rom-coms feels we want, but Condor’s performance makes the character with moments like this, where she breaks her composure to show the real girl behind the tropes.