If there is any genre of film that you think of when you hear the word “cliché” it’s probably romantic comedy, but dammit if this film doesn’t do its best to stand out.
“Love, Simon” stars Nick Robinson as a closeted gay high school senior who falls in love with an anonymous classmate online. Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. also star as Greg Berlanti directs.
Like I said, movies don’t get much more unoriginal and run-of-the-mill than coming-of-age high school dramas or teenage rom-coms. And for all intense and purposes, “Love, Simon” is actually a pretty standard film in those genres. Characters fight, try to discover themselves and fall in love for the first time; only difference is this is the first film produced by a major Hollywood studio to put a gay character in the center of it all. So while the execution may not be anything more than a breezy rom-dramedy romp, the messages in “Love, Simon” make it worth the trip.
Nick Robinson has been busy ever since coming onto the scene in “Kings of Summer” and “Jurassic World,” and has seemingly stuck with the YA dramas (“The 5th Wave,” “Everything, Everything” and now this). He is a capable young actor and shows his range here, playing a boy who feels like he has to walk a line and hide his secret. There really is never anything about Simon that makes him stand out as a character but maybe that’s the point; as he writes to his pen pal, “he’s just like everyone else.”
The supporting cast is a bit of a mixed bag. The likes of Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner as Simon’s parents and Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keiynan Lonsdale and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as his friends all turn in solid work, even if it almost feels as if Duhamel and Garner are a bit underused and shot their scenes over a single weekend. Each of them has a speech they give to Simon that will hit a heartstring of some audience members and all of Simon’s friends have a dorkable charm about them.
On the other side of the coin are Logan Miller and Tony Hale, who play a classmate blackmailing Simon and the school’s vice principle, respectively. Serving as the “comic relief” (used in the lightest of terms possible) these two are so cringe-inducing and are playing characters that belong in completely different films than everyone else around them that I am baffled that no one thought to give their performances better (or any) direction.
This is one of those film’s, similar to “Call Me by Your Name,” where you may not relate to the personal struggles a character is going through but the script is written in a way where you still can see yourself in them.
There are some beats throughout here that are pretty familiar and others that seem a little hard to believe, many of which have to do with spoilers so I won’t address them specifically. Just know that a lot of instances require “movie logic” and are not how normal humans act or talk, and at points it can take you out of the film.
Also, despite being just 110 minutes long, there are some pacing and tonal issues and the first hour feels like two. This is due to the constantly shifting tones, the numerous subplots and the awful Hale and Miller performances making me eye-roll every five minutes.
“Love, Simon” is a historically significant film for its content, average in its execution and solid in its end result. It is a simple watch with some good laughs (“Insecure’s” Natasha Rothwell steals her scenes) and genuine moments of relatable teenage angst. Will it rank among the likes of “Mean Girls” or “17 Again”? No, but it’s always nice and refreshing to see a film striving to give a voice to an audience that feels under-represented in modern cinema.
Critic’s Grade: B+
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