A Tween, A Teen and a Mom Review “The November Rule”


As we scrolled the romantic movie listings, we noticed a distinct lack of diversity.  We were wondering – where are all the people of color?  Don’t they fall in love and make cheesy movies? Of all of them that we have watched, we could only think of one with an African American lead – our all-time favorite – The Mistletones.  Then The November Rule popped up in the Netflix line-up so we decided to give it a try.  Despite a few bumpy Ewwww moments that we had to fast forward through, we all really loved this movie.

The Premise

Steve (Mo McRae) has a rule that he breaks up with whomever he is dating on November 1st so he doesn’t have all the pressure of going through the holidays, buying gifts and meeting the family.  Except for this time, he really likes Leah (Tatyana Ali), the girl he is dating.  She seems perfect, but Steve breaks up with her anyway despite the advice of his best friends.

80’s/90’s Star Sitings:

Barry Bostwick (inexplicably always a favorite of mine since he played George Washington in a TV miniseries) plays Leah’s boss.  Macy Gray makes an appearance as the drunk neighbor of Steve’s parents.  And although not a throwback star, some of you might recognize Faizon Love from his role as the department store manager in Elf.


The “It” Factor ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

This movie definitely has the “it” factor.  From the hip sneaker lingo, to the witty dialogue between Mo’s friends (and Leah’s too), this movie had all the feels.  We were rooting for Steve (Mo Rae) and Leah (Tatyana Ali) to get together, and we laughed out loud several times.  Which is a good thing, because this movie is primarily billed as a comedy.  But make no mistake, it’s a romance at heart.

One thing this movie had going for it is that it’s largely told through the male protagonist point of view, and that’s kind of refreshing in this genre.  He and his friends talk about romance and dating just as much as the women and it’s nice to have their perspective.

I also like that Leah didn’t wallow around when Steve broke up with her. In fact, she started dated a super hot basketball player.  This led The Teen to comment “I don’t see how Mr. Right is going to turn this thing around …”  We were worried for Steve.

The Him is so Handsome Factor:

Teen and Tween: ❤️❤️❤️

Mom: ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I think Mo McRae is good looking and has a great charm about him.  The girls thought he was cute, but not that cute – although they would give his abs a solid five. I think they were a little distracted by the ridiculously good looks of Mr. Wrong – James Avedon (Jay Ellis).  They would be even more distracted if they knew what a smart, kind person Jay Ellis appears to be  IRL from his bio – college basketball player, student body president, and Americorp Volunteer).

The Tropes (also known around these parts as “all the cliches”)

✔️ Dead Dad – This is refreshing.  All mothers seem to be alive and well.  The dad bites the dust this time – an added bonus that it’s the hero’s dad and not the heroine’s parent.  Steve’s dad has passed and it’s supposedly part of the reason for the November Rule.

✔️ Commitment Phobe Transformation – Anyone with a November Rule is definitely a commitment phobe.

The Ewwww Factor: ❤️❤️❤️

I wasn’t sure how this was going to go because The November Rule doesn’t have a rating.  This movie is definitely geared to a slightly older audience – older teens and adults.  Nothing racy, and no nudity, but there is some suggestive language that might make some uncomfortable.  You might want to fast-forward through the scene where Leah and her roommate (Lala Anthony) are scrolling through dating profiles due to some mild sexual humor.  We definitely had to fast-forward through the family Christmas dinner scene because of language and some sexually explicit humor.  Other than that, this movie is fine.  Squarely in the PG-14 rating sphere, I would say.  We all agreed we could watch it together, but Dad would probably make us turn it off.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Pass!  Leah has several conversations with her co-worker about a job challenge and Leah and her roommate discuss her social media presence.

A Tween, A Teen and a Mom Review “Matchbreaker”


The Premise:

Do you have that best friend who is very picky about who they date – like so picky they can hardly find someone to date?  That’s the premise of this movie.  Ethan Cooper (Wesley Elder) fell in love in elementary school and nobody has been right for him since the perfect Emily (Christina Grimmie) moved away shortly after.  Ever since Ethan comes up with lists of deal breakers for everyone he dates.  His mom employs his special skill to point out the flaws of someone his sister is dating to convince her to break it off. When frustrated, meddling parents find out about his talent, they start to hire him to break up relationships.

Eventually, Ethan runs into Emily, and realizes that you can love someone, even if the little stuff makes you crazy!

The “It” Factor:

The Tween: ❤️❤️❤️❤️  She liked the plot and thought the movie was cute overall.

The Teen: ❤️❤️❤️  “It was just ok.”  She didn’t have much of a critic beyond “I just wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be.”

The Mom:❤️❤️❤️❤️

I enjoyed it, especially the backstory of Ethan’s undying love for Emily.  This movie had just the right amount of cheesy in it.  Plus, Christina Grimmie sings her own songs and she is great.  Grimmie was a finalist on The Voice and has real vocal chops.  I was hoping we would be seeing more of her, but tragically, she was shot to death at an autograph signing just after the release of the film.

Him is so Handsome: ❤️❤️

What can we say?  Elder does not possess typical romantic movie lead looks.  He is a charming screen presence, but just average looking.

Ewwww Factor: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Nothing Ewww here.  Just good clean rom-com fun.

Bechdel-Wallace Test:

Epic fail. There was not one scene in which two women discussed something besides a man.


A Tween, a Teen and a Mom Review “Leap Year.”



I must say, I was happy to see this movie pop up in the Netflix “Because you watched” list.  I have caught bits and pieces of it from when it was released in 2010, but never the whole thing.  It’s rated PG.

The Premise:

Anna (Amy Adams) has a successful career in Boston as a real estate stager, and a heart doctor fiance named Jeremy (Adam Scott).  She thinks he has invited her to dinner to propose, but that turns out not to be the case.  She decides to take matters into her own hands, and purpose to him.  Apparently, it’s an old Irish custom for women to purpose on Leap Day in Ireland, and as it turns out, Jeremy is in Dublin for a conference on – you guest it – Leap Day!  However, plans go awry landing her in a one-horse Irish town where she hires Declan to drive her to Dublin and shenanigans ensue.

The “It” Factor:

Mom and Tween: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

The Teen: ❤️❤️❤️❤️ – She docked it a heart because she thought they should have dated a little longer before getting engaged.

We all agreed that this movie has the “it” factor.  Even though the plot is a bit thin and does nothing to advance any feminist notions, we loved it.  And let’s face it, you already know those things going into most romances.  I am always charmed by Amy Adams and she did not fail here.  She (and I might add, her amazing calf muscles) make the movie.  As the tween noted “she is perky and funny without being too annoying.”

We all loved the banter between  Anna (Adams) and Declan (Goode), the funny cow scene, and the cinematography.  It was filmed all around Ireland and the scenery is beautiful.  However, if you are a geographic purest, you will have some problems as it would appear they traveled the whole of Ireland and went way out of their way to get to Dublin.  I am geographically challenged, and even I noticed this.  Anywho, that is what a “willing suspension of disbelief” is for – right?  So just chill and enjoy the scenery.

Fun 80’s/90’s star appearance: Jonathon Lithgow as Anna’s father.

Him Is So Handsome:

Tween and Teen: ❤️❤️❤️

Mom: ❤️❤️❤️❤️

We all have a thing for dark hair and blue eyes in this family, so we all liked Matthew Goode.  I like him a little more.  The girls thought he was a little too old to get a full five stars, ageist that they are.

The Tropes (all the cliches):

✔️The road trip

✔️ Enemies to lovers

❓ Unconfirmed dead mother.  Anna meets her father (Lithgow) for a drink to supposedly tell him that she is getting engaged.  No mother shows up, and I get the feeling that she might not be on the scene.  Of course, that doesn’t mean she is dead necessarily, but you kind of get that impression. Here’s to hoping there is a living mother of a heroin floating somewhere in the backstory!


The Ewwww Factor: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Nothing Ewwww here.  Everyone can enjoy watching it together.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: ❤️

It barely eeks out a pass because the majority of scenes are between Anna and Declan.  However, there is a bit of conversation between Anna and a female board member of an exclusive apartment building.  There is also a brief snippet of conversation between an innkeeper’s wife and Adams that doesn’t focus on men or romance, but rather on the marital status of the couple from the previous night and cooking.

A Tween, a Teen and a Mother Review “The Kissing Booth”

kissing booth

The Kissing Booth is a teen romance about a girl, her best friend (a guy) and his brother.  Elle (Joey King) has been Lee Flynn’s (Joel Courtney) best friend since they were babies (their mothers were best friends).  They created all sorts of rules about their friendship when they were little.  One of the rules was that Lee’s older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi), is off-limits.  All that changes with an encounter in the school fund-raiser kissing booth.  This Netflix original production debuted in 2018 and is rated PG-13.

I always like when stars of the 80’s and 90’s make an appearance in these movies.  This one has one of the biggest gets ever – Molly Ringwald!!!  My only complaint is that they didn’t give her much to do.

A small aside – if you like podcasts, you should check out The Moth episode where Molly tells a story about getting called into the principal’s office about her daughter.  It’s vulnerable and heart-touching.  Here’s the info: https://themoth.org/storytellers/molly-ringwald

NOTE: Only Fiona (the teen) and I watched this one, with my husband as a “guest viewer”.  It must be noted that he was filling this role somewhat unwillingly.

The “It” Factor ❤️❤️💔

Fiona saw the ads on Netflix and suggested that this be our next movie to watch together.  Since I noted that queen of romantic teen movies of my generation, Molly Ringwald, is in it, I agreed.  We started off thinking this movie had all the feels.  The couple had good chemistry, and the premise is fun.  The “rules’ for the friendship between Elle and Lee are cute and believable.  However, this movie didn’t quite match up with how it was presented in the promotional materials, so it didn’t meet our expectations which resulted in the low rating.  I’ll explain more about this in the Ewwww section.

“Him is So Handsome” Factor ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

There is no denying that Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi) is a hotty.  The Teen in particularly was swooning over him.  He spends a lot of time in this movie with his shirt off, which might account for this movie’s trending status on Netflix.  Even the best friend/little brother (Joel Courtney) is a cutey.  Adding to the appeal of Noah is the fact that the actors playing Noah and Elle became a couple in real life. Kinda like Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens did in High School Musical.  Hmmm, I am really beginning to see why my Teen was so attracted to this movie, as Zac Efron was the original “Him is so Handsome”…

The Overarching Tropes – All the clichés

✔️ Forbidden Love – Elle has a long-standing secret crush on the off-limits older brother.

✔️ Dead Mother –   Yep, this one too.  Seriously, Hollywood is tough on the mothers.  This is not really a spoiler alert, as they reveal the fact that Elle’s mother died with the opening credits.

✔️ Motorcycle riding, fist fighting alpha male bad boy.

The EWWWWW factor 💔 (Spoiler Alert – although the predictability of a romance kinda precludes a spoiler alert, but anyhoo here it is).

First, it should be noted that I watched this movie with a newly minted teen – she just turned 13 in May, and really didn’t want to be a teen.  That’s to say that I am watching this film with someone who is still fairly innocent.  The ewww factor might be less intense if you are watching with an older, more mature teen.

So, we are watching the movie and all is going along fine, until it isn’t. There is a scene where Lee and his brother throw a party and Elle, drunk,  gets up on a table to dance and decides she is too hot and starts taking off her clothes.  Neither brother does anything to stop her.  Aren’t they her friends?  I can get over that scene as it can be a good conversation starter about what NOT to do, but it did bother me that neither one stepped up.

There is also a montage of Elle and Noah hooking up.  The intimacy is mostly off camera and we don’t see much more than him without a shirt and her in a bra.  They also show her buying condoms.  I guess kudos to them for portraying safe sex, but there was an ewww factor watching it with my husband and 13 year old.  I am not sure she was even paying attention to that part, as her head was in her phone, and she was annoyed that her father wanted to turn off the movie then.  Or maybe she didn’t understand what Elle was buying, or maybe we are all in denial – I am not sure.

But the scene we could not get past is when Lee discovers the secret relationship between Noah and Elle.  This sequence of scenes doesn’t at all feel like the rom-com Netflix promoted this movie to be.  The two brothers talk about Elle while barely acknowledging her presence.  Then Lee asks if they have been together, and uses the f-word.    A fairly violent fight breaks out between the brothers that seemed outside the context of the sibling rivalry between them, and completely unnecessary.   We exercised our parental guidance and turned the movie off at this point.

These scenes are jarring and don’t fit the tone or feel of the rest of the movie. There are better ways this could have been handled that would have shown more character depth and growth. When the teen was gone,  I went back to finish the movie, because I was curious about how they recovered from this section.  The film, oddly, just went back into teen rom-com mode, with a lot of brooding until the romance was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  I am disappointed Netflix, I expected better of you.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: ❤️

It barely passed, but it did.  There is a brief moment when Elle and Mrs. Flynn (the mother of Lee and Noah) discuss school.


A Tween, a Teen and a Mother review “Coffee Shop”


Coffee Shop is a romance starring Laura Vandervoot and Cory M. Grant.  Coffee shop owner Donovan (Laura Vandervoot) is in danger of losing her coffee shop when the bank that owns the building is sold. Ben (Cory M. Grant) is a playwright visiting the town to escape bad reviews of his recent play.  He sets up shop in the threatened cafe.

The “It” factor –The Teen and Mother: ❤️❤️ The Tween:❤️❤️❤️

Although none of us thought this movie totally had the ‘it’ factor, there was some disagreement on the ranking.  Emma thought it should have been three stars at least because the premise was good.  However, we didn’t really connect much to the lead characters, and Donovan’s sister, Becky (Rachel Hendrix), annoyed all of us.  Even my husband commented on her annoying behavior as he floated through the living room.

Mom’s Main Beef:  The background mood music played constantly, and was completely distracting.  Also, Vandervoot needs to work on her fake crying.  It was not convincing at all.  Lastly, the main two love interests don’t seem to have good on-screen chemistry.

The Teen’s Main Beef: The sister kept trying to set Donovan up with her ex boyfriend in annoying ways.

The Tween’s Main Beef:  There were some continuity issues for Emma.  In one scene, Donovan and Ben have a chance meeting in the town square and decide to go get ice cream.  It’s pitch black out, with white lights twinkling in the trees.  Then when they are eating the aforementioned ice cream on a park bench, the sun is just going down.  There was a lot of this kind of thing.

Him is So Handsome Factor : The Teen and the Mother❤️❤️❤️❤️ The Tween ❤️❤️❤️

We all were crushing on Ben (Cory M. Grant).  He really pulled off the tussled hair, scruffy beard look well.  However, the Emma thought that he “was not Mistletone Guy” hot, so she lowered her rating.  I told you, she is a tough critic.

The Overarching Tropes (cliches)

✔️Dead mother – I don’t know why Disney and romances are so hard on the mothers, but main female characters often have a deceased mother and Donovan is no exception.

✔️Wise African American man dispensing advice.

✔️A supposedly strong-minded businesswoman in need of rescue to save her business.

The Ewwwww Factor: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

No awkward sex scenes or inappropriate dialogue.  We were all comfortable watching together.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: ❤️

Although there are some female characters, the majority of their discussion was around a man.  Even discussions about saving the business had to do with a man, albeit, not all of it was romance based.

The Review Panel

The Mother

I am Kelly Black, a wife and the mother of a teenage son who doesn’t want to be associated with romance movies, and two daughters who are fellow movie review panel members.  In the real world, I am an English professor at a community college – a job I love.  I also love all things romance – books and movies alike.  When I am not watching or reading romance, I like to read other things, write, knit, walk the dogs, cook, exercise and spend time with friends and family.

Some favorite romance movies: Twelve Dates of Christmas, Love Actually, The Mistletones, and Casablanca.

The Teen

Fiona Black is my newly minted teenage daughter, having just turned 13 in May.  She is a romance movie fangirl.  When she is not watching romances, she enjoys hanging with her friends, horseback riding, competitive swim and track.

Her favorite romance: The Mistletones, and Me Before You.

The Tween

Emma Black is 11, and my tweenager.  She is also a romance movie fan (obvi).  She loves cheer, tumbling, basketball, competitive swim – basically anything sporty.  Emma is not short on opinions, and I should warn you, is likely to be the toughest critic.