I love when a teen comedy (or romantic comedy) reminds me of my teen years. That could be the fact that it reminds me of my real life in high school, or how me and millions of others felt watching John Hughes’ movies. It’s nice that some of these films now can involve gay characters. I’m thinking back to how terrific The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a few years ago.
It was a pleasant surprise that writer/director Greg Berlanti, who is known for Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, and a few DC projects, does such a great job with this material from screenwriters’ Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (adapting author Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda).
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson of Everything, Everything and Jurassic World) is an average high school senior in suburbia. He’s got good looking, successful parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner). He has a great relationship with his little sister Nora (Talitha Eliana Bateman), who despite making horrible dishes in the kitchen, he pretends to enjoy eating. He’s popular in school, and also has some close-knit friends like Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). There’s also a newer friend in their group named Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
We know from his narration, that he’s gay, and he’s in the closet. In one of the cute scenes we see from the trailer, he tries to make conversation with a good looking gardener. He says, “Nice boots.” That might be a decent opening line, if it weren’t for the leaf blower drowning you out. And despite this movie having some cliches you’ve seen in many of these “boy meets girl” type of teen flicks, it does make you realize how hard it must be for gay teens to find a partner. We obviously live in a time where it’s easier than ever before to come out, but it certainly doesn’t mean everyone will accept you. Especially when his dad keeps showing him women on the computer, and talking like the misogynist ex-jock he used to be.
Yet when he reads an anonymous confessional on a website, it inspires him to start writing to this guy. After a few emails back and forth, it seems he’s found his partner. And in this day and age, it’s not hard to believe that a teen would fall this hard after just a few exchanges. Heck, we all know adults that have found somebody from a few communications through the computer. It’s also not hard to figure out where that’s all going to go, but I won’t say anymore about it.
It’s a charming film with a lot of heart. The scenarios are all handled in an interesting way. There’s even a subplot with a weird guy named Martin (Logan Miller), that seems believable.
There are just enough touches of humor that work. My favorite being drama teacher Mrs. Albright (Natasha Rothwell, an actress and writer from Insecure and Saturday Night Live). Every time she opened her mouth, the theatre I was watching this with howled.
There’s a clever dance routine that reminded me of the brilliant one in (500) Days of Summer.
The film score (Rob Simonsen) works well for the material, giving it that romcom vibe, although I’m giving it more points for Simon playing one of the best ballads of all-time — The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset.” More points for hearing one of the best punk songs of all-time — The Violent Femmes “Add it Up” during the required karaoke scene. The kid also had posts of Elliot Smith, Cage the Elephant, and Portugal the Man. He also quotes Bogart, and likes Billy Wilder movies. This might be the most interesting teenager around. I wish I had more friends like him when I was in high school. Especially since he gives his friends rides to school and picks them up coffee.
This is a heartfelt treasure, and it’s nice that there’s a movie teens and adults will enjoy.
3 ½ stars out of 5.