The 1999 rom-com Never Been Kissed was released in theaters almost 25 years ago, and since then, the film — starring Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, and Michael Vartan — has solidified its place in 90’s/early ‘00s rom-com history. Looking back on the film, some issues with the plot of the rom-com have been taken up during rewatches, making people ask, “What the f**k was going on in this movie?”
The film centers around Barrymore’s character, Josie Gellar, a 25-year-old copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. Straight-laced Josie loves her career as a copy editor yet yearns to find the love of her life. One day, Josie’s editor, played by renowned film director Garry Marshall, decides that the Chicago Sun-Times needs a switch up to make their readership grow. He wants to know the scoop about what’s going on with teenagers these days because “sex sells.” Um…weird?
The film then follows Josie back to high school for a months-long investigation where she infiltrates the popular kid’s group to get the nitty-gritty of teen life. Hi-jinx ensues, and the entire plot get super weird from there.
Our first highly problematic moment comes when Josie, as Tiktoker Rob Anderson puts it, goes “into heat” over a high school boy named Guy. She giggles and stumbles over her words while attempting to talk to him before he says, “Are you in Special Ed?”
As the kids would say, “Cringe!”
Anderson then points out another strange plot point which involves Josie’s brother in the film, Rob, played by David Arquette.
“Then one day Josie’s fully grown adult brother just signs up for high school and attends as a student, like look at him,” Anderson says in the TikTok, showing a picture of a fully grown Arquette. “Nobody’s like, ‘Dude, you are 35!’”
Arquette was actually 28 years old at the time the film came out — but still. Another seriously messed up plot point comes when Arquette’s character starts dating a sixteen-year-old student, groping her throughout the film, and calling her an “underage hottie.”
Anderson then points out the more glaring issue with Never Been Kissed which, of course, lies in the fact that a teacher begins to have feelings for a student.
“Josie and her teacher start liking each other, and they want us to think it’s okay because she’s actually supposed to be 25, but he still thinks she’s a student,” he says before showing a clip where Mr. Coulsen, played by Michael Vartan, tells Josie, “Well, all I can tell you is that when you’re my age, guys will be lined up around the block for you.”
Anderson continues, “Josie and her date win prom king and queen, and the teacher just watches on in jealousy because he wants to date his high school student. Then Josie reveals to everyone that she’s an undercover reporter and they’re not weirded out at all. The teacher gets really mad that the girl he’s been having a crush on is not a high school student.”
So, he’s upset at Barrymore’s character for lying about being in high school and admits to having feelings for her. He’s not relieved that she’s actually 25 years old, he’s mad at her!
To try and win him back, Barrymore’s character writes this amazing article about her experience going undercover in high school, exploring her journey rather than that of the kids she was supposed to expose.
“At the end of the article, she apologizes to the teacher and she’s like, if you forgive me and want to give me my first kiss, I’ll be standing on the pitcher’s mound at this random baseball game. I’ll wait five minutes for you,” he explains.
“He runs out the clock and then kisses her, which is like — red flag. Like, where were you? He like loved making her wait those five minutes and then everyone’s cheering for it. Like, why would you stand and cheer for this? Like the man is a predator and she wrote about it in the paper. If I were him, like, why would you do this so publicly? You are implicating yourself, my friend.”
Watching this through a 2024 lens is truly a different experience. Everyone in this movie needs to go straight to jail — literally.
While some agreed with Anderson’s take, others were upset that he was ruining a classic rom-com.
“dude, NO. LEAVE NEVER BEEN KISSED ALONE!!!” one user wrote.
“nope I will not stand for Never Been Kissed Slander. I still say ‘I’m not Josie grossie anymore,’ 🤣” another said.
There has to be some middle ground where it’s possible to hold onto the nostalgia of a once-beloved film while still pointing out the glaring problematic plot points.