Analyzing the Trailer for IT ENDS WITH US

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Sony Pictures dropped the first full-length trailer for the adaptation of It Ends With Us yesterday, and I have thoughts! Coming to theaters June 16, the films stars Blake Lively as main character Lily Bloom (whose unironic dream is to own a flower shop, I cannot), Justin Baldoni, and, inexplicably, Jenny Slate, playing it straighter than I knew she could. 

I read the book back in 2022 with sincere hopes that it would validate the hype (spoiler: it did not), and I’ve been waiting to see if/how Hollywood could clean up this messy story that starts as a romance, takes a turn into domestic fiction about trauma and abuse, and ends up trying to be an inspirational tale of female empowerment. As Slate’s Laura Miller put it“Hoover supplies angsty love stories, extensive sex scenes, catchy premises, and outrageous plot twists. Plenty of popular fiction relies on these proven winners, but it’s less common to see them all deployed at once.” 

First reaction: this looks much better than it has any business being for a movie based on such a poorly written book. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you’ve somehow made it to mid-2024 without knowing what the Colleen Hoover TikTok phenomenon is about, the tl;dr is that Lily falls for bad boy/doctor Ryle Kincaid, who turns out to be emotionally and physically abusive. Realizing that she has replicated a pattern of abuse she witnessed in her parents’ relationship, Lily must decide whether to stay or go. 

Since the adaptation was first announced, my biggest question has been how the film would handle the abuse, which is graphically on the page in Hoover’s novel. From the trailer, it looks like Baldoni, who also served as director, has chosen to indicate Ryle’s violent tendencies (we see him smashing a glass) and their aftermath (Lily shows up with a black eye) without actually showing him attacking Lily, but that could just be the trailer. Will there be Big Little Lies-style physical assault on screen? What did they decide to do about the scene in which Ryle becomes violent while he and Lily are having sex? There are still a lot of ways this could go sideways.

Age is another big issue in the book that the film seems to have corrected. Lily is just 23 in the novel and far from put-together enough to be believable as a successful entrepreneur. The age difference between her and 30-year-old neurosurgeon Ryle further complicates the power dynamic in their relationship, and, frankly, makes it a tough sell that the two have anything in common. Aging the characters up and making them peers—Lively is 36, and Baldoni is 40—smoothes this out and goes a way to make it more plausible that Lily and Ryle can find anything to talk about in-between rounds of effortlessly mind-blowing sex. (Ryle is a god in the sack, natch.)

So, now, the writing. First, a hearty cheer for Christy Hall, who wrote the screenplay and seems to have transformed Hoover’s clunky dialogue (it’s not as bad as E.L. James writing about Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess, but it’s not much better) into passably charming banter. The book is heavy on expository narration, and the voice-over does a lot of that work in the trailer. That’s fine for a preview but not so great for a full-length feature, and I hope they’ve used it sparingly throughout the film. The chemistry between Lively and Baldoni looks promising, and let’s be honest, Jenny Slate makes anything better. My only remaining question about the adaptation, then, is: what have they done with the vast swaths of the book that are flashbacks to Lily’s childhood presented through diary entries she wrote as letters to Ellen Degeneres? Yes, you read that sentence correctly. 

Will the movie be good? Probably not, but it looks aggressively fine. That’s a huge upgrade from the book, which, in my professional opinion, is actively bad. Sometimes aggressively fine is all you need to get a decent box office showing in mid-summer when there’s not a Marvel property to compete with! But will readers who swarmed to Hoover’s books in the early days of the pandemic—many of whom have long since moved on to BookTok’s romantasy obsession—still care enough to go see it in the theater? That’s the gamble. Smart money says this won’t linger in theaters too long before hitting a streamer, where it will provide aggressively fine background noise for scrolling on your phone. Full circle!

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