This movie surprised me in how competently it was made, coming from the guy who produces “Riverdale”.
Synopsis: Everyone deserves a great love story. But for Simon it’s complicated: no-one knows he’s gay and he doesn’t know who the anonymous classmate is that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, scary and life-changing. (20th Century Fox)
Starring: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Garner
Writers: Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker
Director: Greg Berlanti
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 109mins
For showtimes and more, check out Love, Simon on movietimes.com.
Based on the young adult novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens” (how amazing would it have been if they used the book title instead?) by Becky Albertalli, “Love, Simon” chronicles Simon Spier’s (Robinson) high-school graduation year living a fine teenager life as a closeted gay man. His covert bubble is finally popped when a fellow classmate gets his hands on Simon’s anonymous, intimately steamy emails with another anonymous gay person. “Love, Simon” does nothing to redefine or challenge the themes of LGBTQ cinema, but it does serve well as a crowd-pleasing gay dramedy that is effective in today’s digital age.
So we open with an exposition filled voice ever explaining how Simon is your normal high-school kid with a big secret. You know, standard teenager movie stuff. His family is what you would view any stereotypical liberal household as: socially aware mom (Jennifer Garner? nice), cracking jokes on the daily dad, (Josh Duhamel? wtf) and a little sister who loves to cook. Simon has a bundle of nice friends he picks up everyday for school, always grabbing iced coffees at 8AM, (this actually rings very true) and living his completely normal life.
The most hit-and-miss aspect comes from the comedy featuring Simon’s way-too-friendly-with-the-kids Principal, Mr. Worth (Tony Hale). Sometimes his lines really hit while others just come off as a complete farce because no way in hell would a teacher keep his/her job with this kind of behavior. There are homophobic bullies making butt sex jokes in the cafeteria for the whole school to hear. It makes no sense. Although, on the topic of humor, when it works it really works. Millenials will dig it so much. Despite not having read the source material, those in the audience who did were cackling with laughter so those who loved the book will surely love this movie.
A big problem with “Love, Simon” was the lack of supporting characters around Simon which was mostly due to its bad screenplay. His friends are good people, however, none of them have really investing arcs. They all feel a tad shallow. The best side character was Martin (Logan Miller) whose niche humor and over-exuberance was great (save for one cringey scene). The movie seems to be self-aware of all the high-school coming of age tropes it uses though it needed more than just knee-deep character relationships.
The crux of the movie hinges on Simon’s perril of coming out of the closet. It’s hard to judge or criticize this subject matter but some aspects were done well while others weren’t. The movie really breaks down sexuality in an entertaining, teenegery way and was handled with extreme care. On the other note, Robinson’s performance was weak. Granted he’s supposed to be closeted, Simon never seems like he should be gay. Because of his bland approach, the emotion concealed by his secret never bursts or effectively convinces the audience that the turmoil behind his sexuality is engulfing him.
This leads to Simon’s anonymous emails. “Love, Simon’s” whole screenplay is based around this macguffin of the emails. The mystery of the sender’s identity plays a big part of the narrative intrigue but it doesn’t work. They were so cringey that no teenagers would ever send them. Throughout the film we see plenty of potential bachelors behind the emails that Simon would be ecstatic to hand a rose, however, they never prove fruitful. The reveal of the mystery man ends up being a left-field choice designed to make the audience gasp when there is no real plausibility to it. This all led to one of the final scenes which was so bad that it nearly derailed the film.
The film definitely had some good and bad moments but when it boils down to it “Love, Simon” is crowd-pleasing gay dramedy rife with millennial humour, a rote plotting device, and absolute zero subtlety. It was fine.
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