With opening day finally upon us, hubby Michael and I ventured out last night to catch the new gay-themed romantic comedy, Love, Simon.
Directed by gay power-producer Greg Berlanti – who’s the driving force behind Flash, Riverdale, Brothers & Sisters, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow – the film is based on the novel Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda.
I found Berlanti’s groundbreaking film – it IS the first mainstream film to feature a teen gay front and center – to be an exuberant cross between a 1980s John Hughes teen angst film (without the overwrought angst) and a thoughtful exploration of what it’s like to come out in high school today.
The film is filled with humor – in its dialogue, characters, and situations – but never sacrifices actual emotional depth.
The first half of the movie takes its time, but that’s necessary to lay the groundwork for where we’re headed.
As a mainstream high school romantic comedy, there are some cliches here – the “parents are away, we have to throw a house party,” the vice-principal who “relates” to his students, clever voiceover from our hero, all backed by a soundtrack of catchy pop tunes.
Simon (charmingly played by Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson) tells us upfront his “huge-ass secret” – that he’s gay and he doesn’t really know how to come out. And, fearing how life could change, he’s not sure he wants to.
He also resents having to “come out” at all (which leads to a clever sequence imagining kids having to come out as heterosexual to their shocked parents). Why is “straight the default?” he asks.
His life becomes complicated when he falls in love via email with an anonymous classmate who calls himself “Blue.” His identity is the cliffhanger of the film and Berlanti keeps the suspense going in clever fashion.
To make things even more complicated, an obnoxious classmate named Martin (Logan Miller) discovers Simon’s secret and threatens to out him unless Simon helps him date one of his friends.
Eventually, the secret comes out (no, that’s not really a spoiler) and Simon copes with his new world.
As a gay man myself, I definitely felt I was reliving some of my own coming out journey.
Touching moments with his parents – played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel – are handled with thought and care.
In a one-on-one scene with Simon, Garner lovingly tells him, “You can exhale now, Simon.” And that moment felt authentic for the whole film – one big exhale for young LGBTs.
It was refreshing to see Robinson’s “Simon” delivered as a clever “every teen.” And you could definitely see hints of 1980s Matthew Broderick witticisms in our hero.
At the screening I attended, I saw practically no checking of cell phones during the film. Folks were paying attention: talking back to the screen, laughing at an over-the-top queer dance sequence, and gasping in sympathy. When Simon’s anonymous crush was finally revealed, the audience broke into euphoric applause.
Love, Simon is a warm-hearted, crowd-pleasing mainstream movie about a gay kid, and how many of those do we get?
The film appears to be doing well at the box office. According to Deadline, the flick is on track to open in 4th place at the box office to the tune of $11.7 million – more than the $10 million cost of the film.
I don’t recommend movies just because they have gay content. I have to like them. And I like Love, Simon.
I encourage you to get out and see the film. If we want to see ourselves in the art around us – TV, movies, music – we have to show up and support.
Go see Love, Simon. You’ll smile, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer.
Berlanti and company don’t necessarily reinvent the teen romantic comedy, but they do throw enough rainbow glitter around that you’ll definitely walk out with the feels.
Here’s the trailer: