‘The Summer I Became Pretty’ Review: A Delightful Ode to Love and Friendship
Amazon Prime’s new show “The Summer I Turned Pretty” has all the perfect ingredients for a romantic drama: a lovable but awkward heroine, a mysterious boy, unrequited love, misunderstandings, friendships, kisses on the beach, epiphany and happiness -after. This is Jenny Han’s second adaptation after “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”. Amazon Prime had renewed the show for Season 2 even before the premiere of the first season. Looks like they had every good reason to make the decision because this romantic coming-of-age drama doesn’t disappoint.
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” tells the story of an unforgettable summer in the life of Isabelle “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung). Every summer, Belly, her mother Laurel Park (Jackie Chung) and her older brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) visit Cousins Beach and spend time with Laurel’s best friend, Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard), and her two sons Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jérémie (Gavin Casalegno). Belly returns to the beach house to celebrate her Sweet 16 birthday with a “summer wish” hoping her childhood crush Conrad develops feelings for her. Belly is no longer a dumb teenager who had braces and glasses, but has instead transformed into a pretty young girl. However, her shy smile and nervousness indicate that she is still the clumsy child that she was and that she is still looking for a solution in her life.
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Conrad has suddenly adopted a brooding and indifferent attitude which baffles Belly and she notices that he has changed a lot. He is also dating Nicole, which upsets Belly. On the other hand, Conrad’s brother, Jeremiah, is a bisexual, party animal, and flirt who develops feelings for Belly. Belly even begins a romance with another boy named Cameron, however, it’s pretty obvious to viewers that she only has feelings for Conrad. Interestingly, when Conrad learns of Cameron’s existence, he acts jealous, causing viewers to wonder if he also has feelings for Belly.
Along with Belly’s story, there are other subplots that lend enticing depth to the unfolding of the series. Perhaps the most poignant part of the series is Laurel and Susannah’s friendship as they struggle with their own issues such as divorce, midlife crisis, work issues, and a painful secret.
The climax of the series is a debutante ball, which Susannah asks Belly to attend. Susannah helps Belly get ready for the ball, with clothes shopping, dance lessons, and other aspects of it. Belly’s summer in Cousins is immersed in bonfires, late-night swims, beach walks, 4th of July festivities, volleyball tournaments and the debutante ball. The ball not only transforms Belly, but also raises a complicated question in Belly’s life. Who will be her escort to the ball? Conrad or Jeremy?
Lola Tung is impressive with her brilliant performance. Her magnetic screen presence and charming portrayal definitely suggest that her career will skyrocket after this series. The music, featured in the series ranging from Taylor Swift to Olivia Rodrigo also deserves a special mention as it perfectly enhances the mood and feeling of the summer romance. Overall, the whole show is pretty predictable, like all teen romances. However, Jenny Han’s show evokes fun and anticipation with an endearing narrative and a perfect cast.
All episodes of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” are available on Prime Video.