A girl named Belly, approaching her sixteenth birthday, her Mom, and her hunky brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) spend the summer at their dear friend's Katherine's beach house, where she draws the attention of Katherine's two hunky sons. While she decides between them, there are beach parties, yacht parties, afternoon teas, shopping for dresses, visiting friends, various charity events at the country club. and the biggest event of the season, the Debutante Ball. It's The Summer I Turned Pretty, "a story about first love, first heartbreak, and the magic of that one perfect summer."
Sounds glittery and marshmallowy, an ultra-escapist fantasy, Love Boat for tweens. And there's an actual, honest-to-goodness Debutante Ball. I'm in!
Prologue: Establishing shot of the elegant New England resort town of Cousins, where Belly has been coming with her family every summer since she was a baby: "I count the days until I'm in that house." I would, too: it's a mega-mansion. Flashback to three boys and a girl frolicking at various ages. "It's always the same. That's what I love about it."
Scene 1: Belly and her friend Taylor in her room, packing for the summer. "You should pack clothes that show off your new boobs." "It doesn't matter -- I always buy a lot of new stuff when I get there." I imagine it's buying clothes during the day, charity events at night.
"Which of the two brothers are you going to kiss this summer?" Taylor asks. If they've spent every summer together, wouldn't they be like cousins, a familial bond that erases erotic interest?
Scene 2: On the way to the house, Mom cautions Belly and hunky brother Steven (Sean Kaufman, left) to be good houseguests: "Put your dishes in the dishwasher; don't leave them in the sink." "But Katherine has people to do that."
Arriving in town, they stop at a gas station. A hunky guy says "hello" to Belly. She's shocked: "guys never talked to me before." Must be the new boobs. He invites her to the bonfire tonight.
Scene 3: They arrive at the beach house, where Katherine is arranging flowers. Of course. Her son Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno, top photo) rushes out to hug Steven and comment on how much Belly has grown.
Her other son, Conrad (Christopher Briney), stares at Belly with jaw-dropping, hormone-sloshing, Girl-of-His-Dreams paralysis. But he sees her every year. Must be the new boobs.
Left: a photo from Christopher's instagram, with the caption: "Find out why I'm fighting with Isabel (Belly) and kissing Danny."
The Danny in the cast list is the bookstore manager in Scene 5, played by Adam Plant, who also does podcasts and youtube videos as a "trans man of faith." He just appears in two episodes, so I doubt that Danny and Conrad have an on-screen romance. Off screen, well....
Scene 4: Inside the house, Katherine is shocked at the many boxes of groceries that Mom Laurel brought: there are grocery stores in Cousins, you know. Belly comes in, and Katherine stares with jaw-dropping, hormone-sloshing, Girl-of-Her-Dreams paralysis. "My God, she's gorgeous! You have always been pretty, but...my God, what happened?" I guess that's what "the summer I turned pretty" means. Belly has become so breathtakingly spectacular that everybody, even her "aunt," wants to have sex with her.
Laurel gives us a plot dump: "As you know, Belly, your father and I are divorced, and Katherine's husband is working in London, but they'll both come to visit for the 4th of July." Laurel and Katherine are obviously ex-lovers. Or current lovers.
Scene 5: Mom Laurel, a famous writer (of course), has a book signing this afternoon, and wants Belly to go with her, to drum up some buyers. Come in to see the most beautiful girl in the world and buy a book. But she goes swimming with Jeremiah instead.
Katherine offers to go to the book signing, but first she needs to drop by the country club. Laurel disapproves: all those mega-wealthy, elitist snobs! But you don't mind having a mega-wealthy best friend?
Scene 6: While Belly and Jeremiah frolick at the beach, Laurel and Katherine head to the country club and then to the bookstore, where the manager, Danny (Adam Plant, above) asks how Laurel's book tour went. Katherine yells at him for not ordering enough copies for the signing. (There's also a book party tomorrow night.)
Laurel picks up a Western novel and insults its author, Cleveland (Alfredo Narciso): "ooh, I'm masculine yet intellectual! I read Hemingway! I wear horn-rimmed glasses!" And of course he's standing right there! Romance coming up.
Scene 7: At dinner, everyone discusses how sexy Jeremiah is, now that he's started working out. Conrad mopes around, being surly. Katherine invites Belly to become a debutante: hang out with other wealthy girls all summer, and finally "come out" at the annual Debutante Ball. "The daughters of the wealthiest families in New England do it."
Conrad calls it "bullshit," and Mom calls it archaic, but Katherine claims that nowadays it's all about business: networking, marketing yourself, leadership skills.
Scene 8: Night. Jeremiah brushing his teeth while Steven showers. They sing together. They have some major erotic chemistry going on. Meanwhile Belly runs into Conrad moping by the pool. They gaze at each other with stultifying horniness, and then discuss whether Belly should become a debutante.
Scene 9: Jeremiah and Steven set out for the bonfire party mentioned in Scene 2. Mom and Katherine are making brownies and preparing to watch their first-night-together movie, It Happened One Night. Belly claims that she's tired and just wants to go to bed, but she sneaks out to the bonfire instead. Wait -- if Jeremiah and Steven can go, why can't Belly?
Scene 10: Belly got talked into wearing an expensive evening gown -- to the beach! So she covers by claiming that she has come from another party. The gas station guy from Scene 2 flirts with her, but backs off when he discovers that she is only 15. She is upset to discover that both Conrad and Jeremiah have girlfriends. They were supposed to wait around for her?
Scene 11: Back home, Laurel and Katherine are smoking pot and discussing whether to tell the husbands. Yep, they're lovers. Then they discuss getting Laurel a Tinder account so she can get laid. Maybe not.
Meanwhile, at the bonfire, Belly is sitting around being morose when Cam (David Iocono, left), who she met in 7th Grade Latin Class, shows up. He's interning on a whale-watching boat; would she like to go? They're interrupted by Conrad getting into a fight. Then the police arrive. Everyone runs away.
Steven and the brothers won't let Cam give Belly a ride home, since he's a near-stranger, but she agrees to go on the whale-watching trip, and kisses him! Her first kiss! Conrad glares at her. Dude, you were kissing another girl five minutes ago.
Before they have a chance to drive off, the police stop them for underaged drinking. And no, being rich won't take care of it.
Scene 12: Maybe it will. The police just take them home, and remind Katherine that they have a golf date set up with her husband. "Underaged drinking!" Lauren yells. "What if you weren't rich? You would have gone to jail!" No, they would still be returned to their parents. Well, unless they were black. "What's gotten into you? What's wrong?"
Montage of Steven brushing his teeth, Conrad staring morosely into space, Jeremiah grinning, Lauren texting, and Belly deciding to accept the invitation to become a debutante. In the morning, she talks to the morose Conrad for a few minutes, then rushes off to go whale-watching. The end.
Beefcake: Only Jeremiah and Steven, so far. There will be others.
Gay Characters: I assume that Katherine and Lauren are lovers. Steven and Jeremiah seem quite into each other.
Conflict: Lauren resisting the lifestyle of the rich and famous, while spending the summer at the elegant beach-mansion. Steven and Conrad have problems that they haven't revealed yet. And, of course, Belly will have to choose between two boys (or maybe 35,000, now that she's become Pretty).
My Grade: A if some of these people turn out to be LGBT, otherwise B.