Boy, this movie has certainly gotten a lot of traction this past week. In cinemas all over the place, there have been early screenings of this. I’m not even sure why. What’s made this movie worth having several early screenings before its actual release dates? Okay, so there’s some positive buzz, and people seem to like to it. But… so do the Marvel movies. So does Star Wars. But they all get released on their release dates. Is this movie supposed be the gay romance movie to end all gay romance movies? Is this book the gay romance novel to end all gay romance novels? Look, I didn’t go to any of the early screenings. I was to busy with the reviews I already had on my table. Maybe the movie’s good, but… sheesh, what’s with this movie?
The story looks like it’s about this young man who knows he’s gay, but hasn’t come out of the closest yet, but slowly over time learns to accept what he knows to about himself and come out.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Nick Robinson, known for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING (2017), THE 5TH WAVE (2016), JURASSIC WORLD (2015), and the upcoming KRYSTAL (2018). In support, we have Jennifer Garner (NINE LIVES , THE INVENTION OF LYING , MR. MAGOO , and upcoming films PEPPERMINT  and AMUSEMENT PARK ), Josh Duhamel (the Transformers movies), Alexandra Shipp (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE , STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON , ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 2 , and upcoming films X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX  and DUDE ), Logan Miller (BEFORE I FALL , A DOG’S PURPOSE , and upcoming films THE MAZE  and YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY ), and Tony Hale (15:17 TO PARIS , YOGA HOSERS , THE INFORMANT! , STRANGER THAN FICTION , and the upcoming BATMAN NINJA ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Greg Berlanti, known for LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (2010) and the upcoming BOOSTER GOLD, no release date announced. Co-writing the screenplay are Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, both known for the same TV shows that I’ve never heard of. Composing the score Rob Simonsen, known for FATHER FIGURES (2017), NERVE (2016), BURNT (2015), and upcoming films TULLY (2018) and CAPTIVE STATE (2019). The cinematographer is John Guleserian, known for EQUALS (2016), and upcoming films ZOE (2018) and TRIAL BY FIRE (2018). Finally, the editor is Harry Jierjian, known for 1 episode of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW (2016 – ongoing), 6 episodes of SUPERGIRL (2015 – ongoing), and 7 episodes of THE FLASH (2014 – ongoing).
Overall, I should probably dial my expectations back a bit, but… I don’t know, it looks a little too clichéd in parts and not written especially well. But it looks better than Robinson’s previous ventures and doesn’t look like it’s going to be bad, per se, so… keeping an open mind.
This is my honest opinion of: LOVE, SIMON
Simon (Nick Robinson) is like everyone else. He he goes to school, hangs out with his friends, has a loving and supportive family, but he has a secret that he’s hiding from the world: he’s gay, and he’s not ready to come out. After reaching out to an anonymous student at school who mentions that he’s gay, his secret is discovered by an obnoxious classmate named, Martin (Logan Miller). He threatens Simon to out him, unless he helps him get with his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
Um… yeah, still processing. Jeez, I hope this doesn’t become a thing for every movie I see.
Okay, so what do I like about the movie? Let’s just hit it. I think this is Robinson’s career best. I’ve been following this dude’s career since his early days on MELISSA & JOEY (2010 – 2015). He’s had great talent and that’s brought in full here and then some, with a healthy mix of drama. When he’s being charming, he’s legitimately charming. When he’s upset, you’re upset with him. Simon is a very well-defined character that we easily feel for and care about.
Having said that, I do think there is a bit of dumb in his choices. The whole crux of the film is a liar-reveal set-up, sort of. It’s played with, so I can appreciate originality, but I feel like a lot of the conflict could have been easily counter-acted. How come Simon didn’t go up to his friends and tell them, “Hey, Martin’s trying to blackmail me into setting you up with him. I can’t tell you what it is about me that he’s blackmailing me with, it’s deeply personal, I promise to explain in time,” something along those lines and make their own threats like, “If you expose Simon, we’re going to Principal Worth and telling him that you’ve been sexually harassing me.” At least try and resist instead of just freaking out and going along with it. But no, he doesn’t spend any time trying to figure a way out of his predicament, which I think is pretty lame. After all, the alternative is ruining his friends’ lives and betraying their trust by lying to them about each other, which is deplorable as all hell on Simon’s end.
But I can’t hate on this series of choices when the movie does a fantastic job of saying things that are pretty poignant. For one, there’s a great and hilarious scene where Simon comments that it’s wrong that being straight is the social standard. Why do homosexuals need to be the ones to come out? Why can’t straight people come out? The result is a hilarious hypothetical montage of characters talking to their parents saying, “Guys, I’m straight.” The boys say they like girls, the girls say they like boys, and you have parents hilarious going, “It’s like we’ve been living with a stranger all this time.” Or my favorite reaction is a mother bawling, crying out, “Oh Lord, help me Jesus.” I admit, I laughed pretty hard. But more importantly, this is a fair point that I don’t think any movie has ever asked before. I mean, sadly, the answer is as simple as “decades of intolerance and stupidity” and I don’t think there’s many who would argue me. Still, coming out of the closet is unfortunately a big deal as our society stands when the reality is that it shouldn’t matter. We don’t come out of the closet by saying “I’m Peruvian,” or “I’m Polish.” No one cares if you’re left handed, near-sighted, prefer iced coffee, or don’t like to wear hats. It’s a preference thing. So why is sexual orientation something that has to be a big deal? On a personal level, I don’t give a shit, and that’s exactly how I feel sexual orientation. If you come out and tell me you’re gay or bisexual, I’ll probably not care too much as I don’t see it as a big deal. You love who you love, it’s none of my business.
Robinson isn’t the only one who surprises with a great performance. Both Garner and Duhamel do a fantastic job as well, especially when Simon comes out to them. Garner’s voice is so subdued, so quiet, but you see the struggle in trying to find the right words to say to assure him that she still loves him and that he is still who has always been. I won’t lie, I got tears in my eyes. I got the exact same reaction when it was Simon’s dad’s turn to express his love. You see a man who is pretty much a man’s man. He loves sports, talking about women, not in a demeaning way or anything, but really lays it hard that he is a man among men. So to see him break down like he does, ashamed of how he spoke to Simon who has been holding in his secret for years, it’s heartbreaking, but also really heartwarming. I think I cried more during that scene than with Garner. Either way, bravo to both actors. Truly engaging performances.
There are still some smaller issues that kind of irked me. For one thing, I want to be a fan of Tony Hale, I’m sure he’s a funny guy in real life, but he is so annoying in this movie. Even the scenes where he’s at his most human, it’s ruined from bad writing. He just doesn’t act like a real person. I can see principals act like they’re friends to their students, but there are scenes with him that turn into a Disney channel performance. Martin isn’t much better. I know he’s the villain of the film, but there was a way to make him the bad guy without making him so… obnoxious. There also a weird line from the teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) who says… I forget the particulars, but it’s like she claims cats gave her asthma, or something, even though that’s not how it works. Asthma is a genetic thing and what she should have said was that she had bad allergic reactions to cats, which is possible. But it’s was in the way she said it like cats are responsible for her having asthma. It was really odd. And I really hated that waffle house scene. If Martin was a better written character, I would have been taken in by him actually listening to Abby’s back story, but then it had to be ruined by… well, him being an awful character, but to do an incredibly cheesy “You deserve a superhero!” moment. Shut the hell up, you mentally deranged sociopath!
I think that’s how I’ll describe the movie. When it’s good, it’s very human, poignant, smart, funny, cute, and utterly engrossing. There are some truly great things to be found. Which makes this all the more frustrating when you have borderline cartoonish elements. Hale as the “trying too hard to be your friend” principal, an annoying antagonist with equally annoying scenes with him, and some questionable character decisions that should have driven this story in a different direction that really does hurt the film as a whole. So how does my recommendation look? I say… yeah, check it out. I think it’s imperfect, but I think it’s worth seeing. I’m glad I saw it, if only for the star power and solid writing, but it’s obvious that I don’t like this movie nearly as much as everyone else does. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand why. This won’t be on my list of best movies by the end of the year, but I liked it more than I didn’t. This may not be a great love story, but it’s still pretty good.
My honest rating for LOVE, SIMON: 4/5