Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review Tuesday: Love, Simon - #ReviewTuesday #LGBTQ #entertainment

Love Simon poster

Love, Simon
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger
Starring Nick Robinson

Normally my Review Tuesday posts deal with books I’ve read recently (or not so recently, if I’m strapped for time!) but today I want to talk about a movie I saw last week, “Love, Simon”.

You may already know about this film, as it has done really well at the box office. All I can say is, everything good you’ve heard about this movie, you can multiply by ten. “Love, Simon” is simultaneously heartfelt and romantic, brutally honest, and laugh-out-loud funny. I viewed it on a long plane flight. Every so often the guy across the aisle would give me a weird look when I broke out into guffaws.

The story revolves around and is told from the perspective of Simon Spier, a high school senior in a suburb near Atlanta. As Simon repeatedly reminds us, he’s a typical, normal teenager. He gets along well with his liberal parents and younger sister. He has a small, close knit group of friends, including Leah whom he has known since childhood, Nick, and newcomer Abby. Like any high school kid, he deals with bullies, misfits, demanding teachers and nosy assistant principals. He’s counting the days until graduation, after which he plans to go to college in Los Angeles.

One thing sets Simon apart, though. He’s secretly gay. He’s known this for several years—ever since he started having wet dreams about Daniel Radcliffe—but he has never shared this information with anyone. The knowledge becomes an increasingly heavy burden. Even though he realizes his parents and friends are unlikely to think less of him, he cannot muster the courage to come out to them.

An anonymous post on the school blog, written by another closeted gay student, changes everything. Simon begins to correspond with the other guy, who calls himself Blue, using a pseudonym of his own. Finally Simon has someone with whom he can share his desires, his fears and his uncertainty. Indeed, his online relationship with Blue becomes the focus of his life, as he tries to determine the identity of his mysterious correspondent.

When a socially awkward classmate (Martin) accidentally reads and records one of Simon’s emails to Blue, Simon’s life starts to unravel. Martin resorts to blackmail to get closer to Abby. Terrified of being outed, Simon finds himself lying to and manipulating his best friends, with unhappy consequences.

The film ends happily, with everyone learning a few lessons. However, it’s not hard to imagine a less satisfactory conclusion. LGBTQ teens attempt suicide almost five times more often than heterosexual youth. Early in the film, Simon’s ex-quarterback father makes tasteless jokes about homosexuals. If these reflected his real feelings, Simon might well have ended up estranged from at least one of his parents (though it’s hard to believe his touchy-feely therapist mother would ever reject him). Given the ridicule directed at the high school’s only openly gay student Ethen (who responds with delightful, razor-sharp sarcasm), Simon’s last term before graduation could have been a miserable period of harassment and bullying. Simon is one of the lucky ones.

All this might make it sound as though “Love, Simon” is a serious consideration of the problems of gay youth. That’s not exactly wrong, but there’s nothing heavy or preachy about this movie. As I noted above, it has some hilarious segments. For instance, in one brilliant sequence, Simon wonders why it’s only LGBTQ people who have to come out and imagines what it would be like if his friends were forced to reveal to their parents that they were heterosexual.

It’s been decades since I was in high school, but I remember quite clearly both the excitement and the angst. I was particularly interested in the film’s portrayal of what high school is like today, in this era of mobile phones, social media and instant communication. The interactions between students, their concerns and their interests, were less different than I would have expected.

The film’s cast does an amazing job. I want to particularly mention Natasha Rothwell who plays the drama teacher Ms. Albright with wonderful intelligence and humor. Her streetwise, snarky portrayal of an actress who’s exchanged a stage career for a teaching position is pitch perfect.

Overall, I loved this film. It’s hugely entertaining, without compromising its very timely message. If you haven’t seen it yet, put it on your list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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