A good teen movie is hard to come by these days. There are so many different ‘coming-of-age’ or teenage set stories out there that it has become a genre of its own. When a new one is released, it is impossible not to compare it to the already staggering list of classics that we possess in our hearts. This is how I feel now, and it is how I felt when I came to Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List.
I’m not going to lie, this film has been on my radar due to the ever increasing stardom of Victoria Justice (Zoey 101, Justice). She is the Nickolodeon child actress that just won’t go away and I’m happy to say that is the case. I’ve always been impressed with the growth she has made over the years as a performer and an actress. That doesn’t change in this film, but there are some restraints along the way that do hold her back a bit.
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is a flawed film. The direction, shot selection, editing, and dialogue all had me shaking my head or rolling my eyes. The main cause is due to the fact that we have seen this type of story more than too many times.
Naomi (Victoria Justice) and Ely (Pierson Fode) have been best friends their entire lives. They’ve lived in the same apartment building and side by side since they were children. They have been through everything together; including Naomi’s decision to have an affair with one of Ely’s lesbian mothers. Ely’s mom decided to stay and work things out, where Naomi’s dad decided to get divorced and skip town. The No Kiss List was created between the two friends so that neither of the two would fight over cute guys. They wanted nothing romantic to get between them in their friendship.
Do you already see where the conflict is going to come from? Yeah, I did too. The movie followed the exact plan that I had predicted from the beginning: a guy would come between them and they would get mad at each other and stop being friends. Typically, I’m of the mind that if you are going to utilize a cliche, by all means use it, but at least do something to play with and/or subvert my expectations. That was not done here. Almost the entire film came across as petty, whiny, predictable, and overall boring.
Most of the issues came from the first two thirds of the film; that isn’t to say that the last third was perfect, but it was infinitely more enjoyable to watch. That is due to Victoria Justice’s performance. Like I mentioned earlier, she is held back by the script that she was given. It doesn’t allow her character to grow or overcome some of her insecurities until the third and final act. Normally that is how it should go, but there were no hints given in the beginning two thirds that she was either about to overcome them, or even wanted to. When we finally do reach the final third of the movie, we see a very confident side of Naomi start to appear. The maturity that comes from her experiences in the film reinvigorate the proceedings and it helped me finish the film on a high note. I will also say that Pierson Fode as Ely does a great job as well. The problem with his character is that he is relegated to being a supporting role towards the end of the movie. That is because, in spite of the fact that the title has both names in it, the story is told singularly through Naomi’s eyes. That isn’t the worst thing to happen as Justice handles the weight of the film relatively well, but I was still yearning to see how Ely was coping on his own in certain situations.
A small note on the music. The song choices overall were really strong, echoing the film adaptation of Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s other novel adaptation Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. However, the placement of some of the songs interrupted some of the more emotional scenes, never allowing us to fully feel what we were meant to feel. It was very jarring to have to listen to and I can only wonder if the film would have been slightly improved had the music cues been placed better.
All of that being said, this is a flawed film that has some pretty good performances. The charm that Victoria Justice brought to the screen in the end made most of the movie for me. The chemistry between Justice and Fode was also particularly helpful in that regard. Unfortunately, they both could not outshine every flaw, and ultimately this is a disjointed experience. The most I can say is if the trailer appeals to you, give it a shot.