|Directed by||Ben Shelton|
|Starring||Sami Gayle, Jacob Latimore|
|Released on||April 27, 2018 (United States)|
I’ve never been on the debate team, but I’ve watched debates from the sidelines. The students on the team always seem super aggressive and passionate about whatever side they’ve chosen. But, they also seem a little unbelievable and conviction-lacking while motor mouthing facts at inhuman speeds.
Netflix’s new original movie is about a high-school debate team and two over-achieving students who want to get into Ivy-League schools after graduation. Candy Jar starts off with our female lead Lona Skinner (Sami Gayle) who internally monologues about how much she hates her fellow club member Bennet Russell (Jacob Latimore). There seems to be a temporary impasse where the decision of who becomes debate team president appears suspended, but then the principle declares them co-presidents despite their protests.
The reason for the mutual hatred between Lona and Bennet is never really addressed. We just assume it stems from their mothers’ long-time rivalry. While this seems not only stupid, it shows an underdeveloped plot.
The acting is actually really good for just a drab high-school movie. Helen Hunt who plays Kathy, Lona and Bennet’s school counsellor and confidant does a fantastic job and watching her is a pleasure. She’s not just super sweet and hard-working but also a beautiful guidance figure in their lives seeing as their mums have the maturity level of toddlers. She constantly tells them to live their best lives and not worry too much about their dream schools.
When they fail to qualify for state championships, Bennet heeding Kathy’s advice tricks Lona into studying with him, which they do. However, they’re quite a dysfunctional team which slows down their progress.
Well, Kathy dies in a car crash leaving a gaping hole in Lona and Bennet’s lives. Neither wants to continue to the state championship, but after a talk with their debate team sponsor, they decide to continue on. This time they work together well and we see them slowly fall in love. Days before the competition they two kiss, but Lona pulls away. Bennet attempts to talk to her only to be shut out. They do make it to the final round at state though. However instead of trying to win, they decide to agree with the other team and choose to become a couple instead. (I have no idea why.)
In a super sappy perfectly cliché teen romance movie ending, the two skip prom night and go to the movies where Lona internally monologues again, but this time about how much she likes Bennet.
From the time Candy Jar begins you know exactly how the movie is going to end. There aren’t really any surprises anywhere. The movie plays it too safe to leave an impression. No sparks, super plain, a bit boring. But it’s very light hearted, so if you’re looking for an easy to watch film that you can play in the background and not pay much attention to and still know what’s going on, this is perfect.
It’s a good watch if you’re just bored, but doesn’t really have anything to pull you in and leave you wanting more like other classics like Mean Girls. The language is fairly tame so you can watch it with your family and not have to cover your kids’ eyes at any point of time. The movie does show the pressures of high school well and it realistically portrays the lives of some overachieving students but besides that there isn’t much substance to it.