Love, Simon - 2018
Director(s): Greg Berlanti
Writer(s): Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (screenplay) / Becky Albertalli (novel)
Cinematography by: John Guleserian
Editor(s): Harry Jierjian
Cast: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Tony Hale, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Synopsis: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity (IMDB).
Love, Simon centers around the struggles of teenage boy trying to come to terms that he is gay. Well he already has accepted that, he is just worried in how his loved ones and the world will react to the news. When you’re a teenager in high-school, even the tiniest thing can be magnified due to immaturity and hormones controlling your emotions. I remember freaking-out and being ashamed because I once fell in front of the entire school. So, I can’t be imaging having to deal with keeping a secret that big from your parents and your friends. While Love, Simon strives to tackle coming-out to the world, it mainly focuses on being a romantic comedy. Yeah, remember those?
The romantic comedy used to be a big asset for all the Hollywood studios. It bolstered many of the actors that we now call stars like Sandra Bullock, John Cusack and Julia Roberts to name a few. On top of that, it was also a box office cash cow. If we look at a sample size of 1988 to 2010, you will find at least one romantic comedy within the 30 Top grossing movies of that respective year. But the past eight years, there has been a significant drop off in their financial success, and an argument could be made for their dip in quality, as well. Even the Oscar-nominated rom-coms, such as last year’s The Big Sick*, it didn’t even crack the top 50.
Quick note: my definition of a romantic comedy is any movie that falls in the following structure. Two strangers meet by happenstance (“meet cute”), relationship is developed, relationship falls apart or is under threat and a big gesture or speech brings them back together (happy ending).
So, how do you stand out in a market that seems to have left your genre behind? You alter the story that it’s being told. One of the aspects that I left out of the formula mentioned above is the fact that the large majority (close to all) of these romantic comedies tell the same love story. Straight white male falls for straight white female. With the occasionally straight Jennifer Lopez falling in love. The Big Sick is the model to follow on how to stand out. Use the formula to tell a story not told before within the genre or not told enough. In comes Love, Simon a romantic comedy centered around a teenage boy coming out of the closet, accepting himself and falling in love for the first time.
Director Greg Berlanti is extremely well known as a producer and writer in television. He broke through with Dawson’s Creek and now is best known for being the mastermind behind Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow (Arrowverse) and Riverdale. Basically, The CW’s entire successful lineup. So, I wasn’t sure how he would fare as a director after being behind-the-scenes for so long. To my surprise, he was more than a competent director letting the story and the actor do most of the work, not calling attention to the camera or himself. He kept the story moving quickly through the stages of the romantic comedy formula, never having a big enough lull that made the audience feel the runtime.
Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker wrote a funny and endearing screenplay from their source material. It had very funny moments, but their best work came from dealing with the internal struggle of Simon, played by Nick Robinson. On paper, Simon has everything anybody could ever want. Loving family, good health, good friends and a good education. So, the script need to highlight his inner conflict, he knows he should be happy with the hand life dealt him, but keeping this secret from all his loved ones is holding him back from feeling truly happy. The best scenes come when he comes out and has his long-awaited conversations with his parents and friends. To say that they tug at the heart strings would be an understatement.
The acting is solid with Nick Robinson playing the lead extremely well, capturing all of Simon’s ups and downs. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are loving and believable parents. Tony Hale is hilarious once again as the vice-president of the school that desperately wants to be cool. The supporting cast of friends is good, nobody stands out above anybody but they serve their roles well enough.
Love, Simon is a romantic comedy through and through. But, by telling a story that has been vastly underserved by mainstream Hollywood; it breath a fresh air into a genre that showed signs of life last year. It follows the preset formula almost to a fault, but it creates a good balance between comedy and drama that keeps the audience engaged. Funny, endearing and extremely entertaining; Greg Berlanti has translated his success behind-the-scenes to behind the camera. Connecting to a story that I’d never experience otherwise in my real life is why I love movies.
Love, Simon is currently playing in theaters. Go get some rom-com in you.
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