Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Love, Simon

I'm a sucker for a good coming of age story. In many ways Love, Simon is fairly by the book. We're given a likable high school student dealing with school, friends, and his first crush. The difference from most of these types of mainstream films, is that Simon (Nick Robinson) is gay. What makes the film work is that while Simon frets about what others will think of him if they learn the truth, his gayness doesn't solely define him as a character.

Simon's friends include longtime platonic pal Leah (Katherine Langford), jock Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and newcomer Abby (Alexandra Shipp). He's also got a loving father (Tad Hamilton), mother (Jennifer Garner), and younger sister (Talitha Bateman). Discovering another closeted gay student at his high school, Simon begins trading emails with "Blue." As the relationship deepens, Simon imagines various people standing in for the mysterious stranger. Complicating matters are a annoying classmate (Logan Miller) who discovers Simon's secret and uses it to blackmail Simon into helping him score with one of Simon's friends. While the weakest aspect of the film, it still contains some genuine moments.

Adapted from Becky Albertalli's novel, the screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker is very much a product of its time allowing for an entire relationship to form over the Internet without Simon and Blue knowing who they are corresponding with. While this, along with some bullying at school, could have gone down a far darker path, Love, Simon is a hopeful movie about love and acceptance. The choice for various characters to stand-in for Blue from time to time proves to be a clever touch, allowing the audience to fantasize alongside our protagonist about who Blue may indeed be.

If you are looking for a quirky indie drama about the struggles of a young man coming out to friends and family and its dark ramifications Love, Simon isn't your film. That said, Love, Simon was far better than I was expecting (even given a contrived subplot and the unapologetically schmaltzy ending). It feels very much in tune with the John Hughes' 80s classics and more recent films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Robinson is terrific in the awkward moments of panic that come with putting your heart out there for the first time. The rest of the young cast is solid, and the grown-ups (including Tony Hale as the dorky principal and Natasha Rothwell as a strong-willed teacher) are well cast, and the film does a fairly good job on leaving you to guess about the identity of Simon's pen pal while allowing Simon to fall into a constant state of ecstatic panic about what all of this might mean for his life.

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