Title: Love, Simon
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Director: Greg Berlanti
based on the novel SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
Music: Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: John Guleserian
Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Talitha Eliana Batman
Plugged as the first major Hollywood studio movie featuring a gay protagonist and received a wide release in the home turf (and become quite a money-spinner, globally earns $64 million against a $14 million budget), the third feature from queer director Greg Berlanti, LOVE, SIMON is a milestone in a sense that the once-tabooed LGBT subject has finally (however belatedly) reached the threshold of normalcy in the United States as it is an unadulterated teen romance aiming to an impressionable young demography.
Benefiting from its source novel’s popularity and drawing on a John Hughes-que brisk tone, LOVE, SIMON has no pretense to become a massive crowd-pleaser with its positive vibes around coming-out, sincere friendship, familial support and looking for the anonymous “Blue”, Simon’s first crush, a pen-pal he bonds through emails (yes, Gmail is the inner sanctum for closeted teens). Simon Spier (Robinson), a typical American high-schooler, outfit by immaculate trappings: fairly good looks, fit physique, open-minded parents and thick-as-thieves friends, which all intend to deaden the gravity of his forthcoming coming-out, and it is a clever tactic well delivering the movie from the usual reaction of lachrymose dramatization or vehement opposition, that can be considered too passé at this point of human history.
What is at stake is actually Simon’s cordial friendship with his closest chums, namely Abby (Shipp) and Nick (Lendeborg Jr.), who are quite an item and whom Simon has thoughtlessly betrayed in order to comply with the blackmailing from a fellow student Martin (Miller), who stumbles on Simon’s secret and craftily uses it to importune the latter to hook him up with the gorgeous Abby, then to appease his discomfiture after a public love-declaration fiasco, Martin selfishly outs Simon on the internet. There is a red flag here pertinent to the rather vexing Martin, albeit his unsavory behavior, the movie seems to make great effort to whitewash it as some minor characteristic foible (even with a tint of encouragement for his “be himself” candor and temerity), however, in reality, more often than not, it is not, Martin’s failing to take the consequence might send a not-so-salubrious message to its susceptible core audience.
By comparison, the portrayal of Simon is more sensible, he has several apologies to issue before riding to that first kiss, and it is very gratifying that it is not his sexuality that disappoints his friends but his senseless manipulation and insensitivity (the antediluvian trope of cottoning to one’s best friend is still wielded as a plot device in secrecy, which does precipitate some eye-rollings here), that is “the” crux of the matter here, and it is a rousing experience to watch it unfold heartily in front of one’s own eyes (especially when its relevance is too close to home on a personal level), and then paves the way for the saccharine but irresistibly adorable finale.
Barring a vainglorious turn from Logan Miller, the cast is a fine conglomerate of sympathy, sincerity, charm and affection, both Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel punch above their weight as Simon’s perspicacious mother and misty-eyed father respectively, which says a lot about the rest, especially a spontaneously bubbly Alexandra Shipp as the major discovery for this viewer. As our protagonist, Nick Robinson successfully sloughs off his miffed temperament in Colin Trevorrow’s JURASSIC WORLD (2015), and brings about a genuinely affecting versatility out of his teen heartthrob carapace.
Gingered up with catchy songs and music numbers (whether illusory or Cabaret-lite), LOVE, SIMON is a wholesome confection that has all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, in order to accomplishes that baby step which queer cinema truly needs, for what it is worth, a watershed is set in stone, what’s next, Hollywood?