I HAVE WAITED MY WHOLE LIFE TO WRITE ABOUT NEVER BEEN KISSED. Or at least since I began writing this column. (So . . . a year.) But still! There are no words for how much I relate to this movie. No, I have never pretended to be a high school student when I was an adult. No, I don’t have a brother. No, I didn’t have my first kiss on a baseball diamond (but oh my god I WISH).
BUT, like Josie Gellar, I h-a-t-e-d high school. (Well, not consistently. For about four to five months collectively, it was alright.) HOWEVER, like I’ve told you guys before, the rest was rough. I didn’t like the same things as everybody else, I didn’t feel like I fit in, bullying happened, and — like Josie — I actually got egged (more than once). Personally! BY THE GUY THAT I LIKED. ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. (One being on my 17th birthday, but that was my house.)
So yes, this movie hits home. Did it hit home when I saw it in theatres when I was 13? Absolutely not! I was watching Drew Barrymore with three of my then-best friends (one of whom is still like a sister — the Nicole Kidman to my Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic, if you will), and totally stoked on the promise of high school. “It won’t be like this!” I thought. Well, it kind of was. BUT by the ripe old age of 27, I have realized how grateful I am that it happened that way.
So let’s do this! High school! Drew Barrymore! THE WHOLE THING.
1. First of all, Josie rules.
Yeah, she’s quiet and she’s being pushed over by her horrible assistant, but GIRLFRIEND HAS HERSELF A CORNER OFFICE. At 25! Do you know how rare that is? She’s a force! Man, the movie could end right now, and I would still walk away thinking, “You go, girl.” True, she doesn’t feel like herself — yet — but she’s clearly going to be CEO of the world one day, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop that. Certainly not her boss, who we’ll get to imminently.
2. I like how her boss thinks Josie can’t report.
And it’s like LOOOOOOOOOOL yes she can. Correct, this movie is set in 1999 when reporting was much different (remember not having the internet, everyone?), but still! If she can copy edit, she can write. At least once. GIVE HER A CHANCE, JOHN C. REILLY. What’s the worst that can happen? SHE SUCCEEDS? LIKE SHE DOES? (Spoiler alert.)
3. But it’s also no one’s business whether or not Josie wants to date . . . ?
Right? Hear me out: Molly Shannon’s character wants to see Josie “happy” and “relaxed,” but at the same time, whether or not Josie wants to date or kiss someone or wear underwear that isn’t striped is Josie’s call (and Josie’s call alone). You don’t want to kiss anyone until you kiss someone totally rad? Hell yes. You want to do the opposite? Valid. BUT just when you think this is about Josie needing to live by another set of rules . . .
4. Molly Shannon and Viola Davis are totally there for her.
WHICH IS AWESOME. Almost as awesome as Josie’s speech about what it’s like to kiss someone you really like (and oh my god PREACH, JOSIE GELLAR) (also, her ethos is becoming more and more appealing to me the older I get . . . ? I’m sorry, guys who aren’t awesome, your time is over), which is then followed by Molly and Viola crying and Viola saying she IS a writer. YOU GO, GIRLS. Support and sisterhood and laying the foundation for literally the perfect movie.
5. Makeover montage!
And while this isn’t even the REAL makeup montage that takes place later on in the movie, it is *A* makeover montage, which is equally important and sees Josie break from the past for 30 seconds by putting on makeup while ’90s alt music is playing. Did you know it was actually a law to play a rock song during a makeover sequence if you were making a movie between 1989 – 2006? No? That’s because it wasn’t. But it sure feels like it was, am I right? (Here all week, everyone!)
6. Okay, whatever Jessica Alba and the other girl.
Now, I’ve been out of high school for almost ten years, so I may be tragically out of the loop, but back in the day, even if you were the coolest person in the land, you still didn’t outwardly insult someone in class the way these ladies are insulting Josie. Is that a movie thing or is that a thing that my high school didn’t have? Educate me, current students. (My high school did have notes, though. So while someone may not have said it out loud, they absolutely wrote it down and then passed it between classes — but at least that way, you didn’t actually HEAR them. Thank you and congratulations, invention of the pen.)
7. Are you serious the teacher would make a brand new student who is late wear the late sombrero?
THERE IS NO WAY THAT WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN UNLESS THE TEACHER WAS SATAN. Seriously. She would literally have to be the devil to be like, “Hey! You’re new? Enjoy the humiliation and embrace the emotional scars you will now have.”
8. LeeLee Sobieski! Where did you go (girl)?
THE COOLEST. Truth: I absolutely wanted to be her after seeing this movie because SHE JUST DOESN’T CARE. Do you know who she is? Janice from Mean Girls. Minus the Damien, who, we will now assume going forward, is somewhere putting meat on his face at the cafeteria table.
9. Also, let’s talk about Michael Vartan, the beautiful English teacher.
Am I objectifying? I’m sorry if I am, but we’re allowed to call him a beautiful butterfly, right? Isn’t this the part where we’re all supposed to want to touch his face? I WANT TO TOUCH HIS FACE. So lovely! So knowledgeable about books! SO KIND. All of these things are crucial in life, and guess what: Michael Vartan’s character has them. CONGRATULATIONS, MICHAEL VARTAN, you have succeeded. In impressing us. Or me. In impressing me. (And this is my Old Lady Movie Night, and that’s what matters.)
10. “THE MILLENIUM!”
Do you guys remember when the millenium was a thing? I didn’t know what it meant. I STILL don’t know what that meant. HOW IS THE MILLENIUM A THEME. Is it like the ’20s? Well that I understand because there is history involved in that and also it’s interesting, but how do you dress for the future? And by “future” I mean “next year”? Don’t you just wear the same clothes? Am I alone here? Am I missing the point? I hear “millenium” and I think “sparkles,” so I assume that’s just what everyone would be decked out in. Glitter too.
11. I tried really hard to make “rufus” happen.
And it wouldn’t be an honest piece of writing unless I told you that. Know that it happened, do with that information what you will, and maybe even try to make it happen now because I think it’s just as good as “fetch.”
12. LeeLee and Josie’s friendship is the most representative of my own friendships in high school.
Currently, LeeLee and Josie are driving around eating ice cream and singing to the radio, and THAT, my friends, is what high school was for me (minus the few months I was “cool” (ish) and acted a fool — which I can fill you in on another time). And it was the best! We would drive around and eat food, and it was everything you could ever hope for and more. Sometimes we’d even go to the mall. All of the time we would go out for dinner. No wonder Josie’s like “What the hell, John C. Reilly — my friend is rad, let me hang out with her.”
13. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT BEING COOL MEANS.
So Guy (also hi your name is Guy?) just said the worst things to LeeLee and Josie, and he says something about how long it will take for them to be cool because I guess that’s the worst insult he could come up with (#brains). BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN. WHAT IS BEING COOL. Am I supposed to know? I legitimately do not know. Isn’t it just nice and fun? Is being nice and fun a cool thing? I officially do not know anymore, guys. So there’s my answer: someone who is nice and fun and confident and kind. That is what a cool person is.
14. I did not get that Josie was eating pot brownies for years.
Guys, I just didn’t understand. “HOW DOES ONE GET HIGH FROM FOOD?” I asked. Now, I know that that is a thing. So technically, this makes also me Josie Gellar: someone who would happily eat a brownie, completely oblivious to the fact that it might contain something other than chocolate. (I mean, not now. But then. Now, I’m just paranoid. Except at bakeries, where I’ll eat literally all the brownies in one sitting without shame — maybe even in front of the cash register. I DON’T KNOW. I whip my hair back and forth.)
15. Okay, but couldn’t Josie have at least been honest with LeeLee?
I feel like they have an actual friendship, so Josie could at least have taken LeeLee aside and been like, “Hey, okay, so I’m actual an undercover reporter.” Or is that breaking a code? I am not an undercover reporter and the idea of being an undercover reporter scares me to my very core, so I’m probably giving Josie some terrible advice. But I mean, LeeLee seems “on the level,” so it’d be okay, right? And then LeeLee wouldn’t feel so sad and horrible? CAN WE PLEASE JUST GO BACK AND TIME AND FIX THIS?
16. Every scene between Michael and Josie = “KISS KISS KISS!”
EVERY SCENE. Truly, I am Kathy Geiss. And Michael Vartan’s character is my fancy boy. I just hope Josie doesn’t make me disappear like Patch.
17. But why would the EIC fire Gus and Josie if her story wasn’t good?
What was the point, then? Of all of it? Why wouldn’t they have come up with a good idea BEFORE she became entrenched in high school culture? And why would Gus get fired? And why would Josie get fired? Why would ANYONE get fired? Demoted, yes. But fired? Guys, I think you actually have to really mess up HORRIBLY before you’re full-on fired from your CAERER. And by “horribly” I mean “you have got to basically kill someone and/or lose the company millions of dollars.” Not “not get a great story.” But then again, it was the ’90s.
18. Also, I hate myself for liking Guy.
I HATE MYSELF FOR IT. I will talk myself out of it with the following justification: the actor does a great job of being charming. Jeremy Jordan? Are you reading this? You did a good job. So good, in fact, I’m almost like, “Aw, maybe Gus isn’t that bad of a person!” But that is a lie, because let’s not forget when he told LeeLee and Josie they weren’t cool. #NeverForget
19. Remember prom?
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER LAUGHTER? But you know what our proms never had? Michael Vartan being our teacher, and us being super-secret investigative reporters. Also, I will argue that the music played at the proms I went to was not nearly as good as The Smiths, which is currently playing at this prom, in a movie, set in 1999. What’s up with that? You hear me, old school? WHY DID YOU DEPRIVE US?
20. Do NOT kiss kiss kiss!
GUY + JOSIE = NO. NO BECAUSE MICHAEL VARTAN IS WATCHING AND IT’S NOT FAIR. Oh my god though now they’re going to dance. And I have seen this movie 259258255 times and my heart is literally going to burst because I’m having one million feelings.
21. But seriously let’s talk about the dog food incident and The Smiths.
Is something wrong with me because I will, without fail, completely tear up during this part? First, Michael Vartan is confessing his undying love to Josie Gellar, basically. Then, she watches as Guy is about to treat LeeLee the same way that horrible boy treated her on HER prom in the 80s. And The Smiths are playing. IT IS TOO MUCH. IT IS TOO MUCH AND OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, SHE JUST PULLED OFF HER CAMERA PIN. #WHY
The waterworks. Here they come. Basically from now until the end because I promise the older you get, the more emotional you get over things like movies and songs and chapters about Betty White losing her husband. (Which I do not recommend reading before bed because you will be heartbroken.)
22. And then, HER SPEECH.
AHHHH. It’s true. IT IS ALL TRUE. “Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.” <– actual advice that is beautiful and great. See, though, I wish I had actually taken that part of the movie seriously when I first saw it at age 13. But I did not, and when I watched it again in my 20s I was like, “well THAT could’ve been useful!”
And it was. But I wasn’t listening. WHAT THE HELL, ANNE. (But also what the hell, Josie, maybe don’t totally blow your cover during prom . . . ? Maybe say everything BUT the fact that you are a reporter? I just think she could’ve said a lot without saying she was a reporter.)
23. Oh no, Michael Vartan.
See, now this is where I’m confused. Okay, so Josie’s undercover guy says “did you get the story on Coulson?” and Michael Vartan (Coulson) hears. That’s a problem, yes. But everything she did was NOT a complete lie, Michael Vartan, because she was just being herself? Am I alone here? Am I out of line to think she could have been like, “Listen, let’s talk about this actually.” Why is he sad? IT WAS A MISUNDERSTANDING. I’d be relieved if I were him! Like, whew, I’m not going to jail! VICTORY. (Or maybe that’s why I’m not in romantic comedies. There’d be conflict, and we’d just have a conversation like adults.)
24. Yeah, and I like romance SO WHAT?!
Right? I love that this movie revolves around Josie and Michael Vartan falling in love and then making out on a baseball diamond after Josie discovers who she is. Isn’t that awesome? ISN’T THAT THE BEST? Everything is rational and wonderful and The Beach Boys play. That, and Josie also KILLS IT AT HER JOB. She becomes this phenomenal professional success, and Michael Vartan loves her FOR WHO SHE IS. This is how to do movie romance, people who write movies. Self esteem, self worth, true friends, and a guy who is like “Hell YES, you are yourself! And that’s why I love you so much!”
AND NOW “DON’T WORRY, BABY” IS PLAYING ONSCREEN AND IN OUR HEARTS.
25. This movie, for real.
Never Been Kissed, I am going to address you as a person because what I have to say is very important: you are in my top five “teen” movies of all time. Michael Vartan liked Josie even when she wasn’t dressed all cool — he liked her FOR WHO SHE WAS, NO COMPROMISES. Like Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. Not like Lainey and Freddie Prinze Jr. in She’s All That because she required a makeover for him to notice her. Basically, this is how you do a teen film, everyone.
Also, like Clueless and Mean Girls. Because everybody wins. And nobody hurts. So basically, the opposite of that R.E.M. song forever. Thank you and goodnight.