Love Simon Movie Review
Love Simon is finding love in a largely unforgiving world
Recent movies about teen homosexual awakening have been greeted with wide acclamation and golden statues. Films that come to mind are 'Call Me By Your Name' and 'Moonlight', both of which are equally insistently delicate, transforming beauty into raw emotion. Yet there has never been a studio that made a romantic comedy for gay teens about gay teens that can reach out to a general audience. Making this a groundbreaking feat, even if it's played decidedly conservative.
'Love Simon' is at once a forthright tale of assertion and a complex character study of the nuances of individualism. Although the witty defiant adolescent banter, palpably on the nose pop music choices (we do after all get a breakup to Haddaway's 'What is Love'), and cliche adolescent problems hint that this is a mid 80's John Hughes movie, I mean the, "were all pretty bizarre, some of us are just better at hiding it" line from the 'Breakfast Club' one could argue could sum this near two hour film up into 13 words, I would respectfully disagree. This is a psychologically astute and socially timely uplifting dramedy that resembles Hugh's best, however, it's not only 'Love Simon's' ability to bask in the feeling of heartwarming and heartbreaking alike that grabs our attention, it's the movie's awareness of its own platitude of the teen coming of age story and ability to then still bring a tear to the eye that is unique.
It would be a disservice to the reader if I were to dismiss this as an unimportant G-rated 'Call Me By Your Name' story of a teens budding homosexuality. As here, there is a decisive depiction of injustice and political impulse, portraying an honest look at how the world views homosexuals. Not everyone meanders the lush Italian countryside living in the room across from the statuesque Armie Hammer with an understanding Michel Stuhlbarg for a father, as seen Luca Guadagnino's Oscar-winning picture. Simon lives in a world exactly like ours. In an opening monologue, he states "My name is Simon, for the most part, my life is totally normal, I have a family that I actually like, and there are my friends, we do everything friends do. We drink way too much-iced coffee or gorging on carbs. So I am just like you, except I have one huge ass secret, nobody knows I am gay". This is a secret he has carried since the age of thirteen when he noticed that the Daniel Radcliffe 'Harry Potter' poster in his room happened to be quite charming. Now a senior in high school, he is of the mindset of, why not wait till college in Los Angeles where he can attend a liberal university that sports a rainbow-colored flag and the students dance in unison in the hallways. Although he is confident that his oddly acquiescent parents (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel) and loving and diverse friends of whose who and whose that of rising stars Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexander Shipp), and Nick(Jorge Lendeberg Jr.) will accept him. It isn't until a fellow anonymous student comes out on social media that makes Simon question his privacy. The student's username is @bluegreen11, which of course is a playful way to contrast the infamous blue and red makes purple saying. Equally clever is Simon's confidential username, "jasque e dit", which is French for Simon says, as the two flirt and confide in secrecy and in each other.
What follows is the ominous yet humorous irony of Simon's existential dilemma, as director Greg Berlanti uses Simon's narration of his thoughts to toy with his audience as well as his protagonist into thinking certain characters are the ones sending the emails. As he falls for the anonymous, everything seemingly falls apart. The villain per say is the drama club buffoon Martin, who doesn't just embody in the conventional sense the token Michael Cera outcast intellectual corniness, he wears it. With 'Caddyshack' shirts and baggy jeans that fit perfectly with his awkward German theater jokes. The problem arises when Martin stumbles upon Simon's emails, where he blackmails him into setting him up with Abby, and of course, as these things tend to go, friendships are compromised and drama ensues.
So many coming of age dramas illustrate the protagonist as alarming or immoderately sentimental, however, the beauty of 'Love Simon' is how human and real this feels, as if we were watching open range fiction, a character who has a little piece of all of us ingrained in him, even if he is a facsimile of the normal. Simon or as some call him "simple Simon" wears a mixture of bland hues, and the camera tags along in his plainness never daring to leave his side, showing us the world through his eyes. Mr. Berlanti, lets the characters speak for themselves, instead of showing overt craftsmanship in his work, he puts the story front and center. Banking on its wit and verve, as it really is remarkably funny, while never crossing the line. Teens make crass and ill-informed jokes, and unless they're said by the scheming bullies of invincible stupidity, they usually were greeted with laughs throughout the theater. Though the highlight just might be the scene-stealing Tony Hale(Arrested Development) who is accompanied with the majority of the laughs as a larger than life principle who is always preaching the good word of how much better students would behave without their cellphones.
As much fun as there is to be had during this lighthearted affair, such a saying could also be 'Love Simon's' defect. For all it's candid exploration of Simon for his humane flaws and cacophony of emotion, the result can be campy if not bland. It is expertly emotional and amusing, but Berlanti's faults are glaring. The imperfections of past work 'Life as We Know It' and 'Broken Hearts Club' blemish 'Simon' with the very same overarching sentiment of bemused cliche. Erase the gay premise, and you are left with a formulaic above average romantic comedy that shamelessly flaunts the genre tropes that boggle down the Cineplex nearly every week. Making for a sitcom esque surface, that makes scenes fall into the category of vignettes.
Yet somehow everything comes together by the end in true triumphant John Hughes fashion. While at the same time doing the source material justice (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens) as it brings a lovable Simon to the screen and a subversive subtext, although in the novel the struggles of queer adolescents were far more vanguard. Nonetheless, Simon is apprehended as more of an acquaintance than a figure on the screen.
Simon, like all of us, rides the Ferris wheel of life. Through the ups and downs of the tender experimental years of adolescents to opening up to a largely unforgiving world about his gayness, we feel an emotional connection to the protagonist. By the time the credits started to roll, I found myself taken aback by the how much the audience could relate to the character. Regardless of your background you may laugh, you may cry, and odds are, you might just find yourself loving Simon.