The Popcorn Periodical
“Love, Simon” is the gay teen rom-com we didn’t know we needed
Following the release of Red Sparrow and A Wrinkle In Time, there’s a slew of big movie titles still to come – Tomb Raider and Love, Simon, being two of the latest. Lara Croft is set out to compete with Black Panther in a CGI action-fest showdown for the top spot at the box office while Simon is set out to become a modern-day hero of his own merit.
Described as “a John Hughes rom-com for gay teens,” Love, Simon is surely worth checking out. I myself “came out of the closet” in high school, so while I directly relate to the subject matter, I have to admit I was skeptical. Sexuality is a sensitive topic for so many, and up until now, gay teens were always just the sidekicks in the bigger, straighter picture. How believable could this coming (out)-of-age story be? Check out our preview for some added information and interview clips, then read on for theBUZZ’s review.
Based on the novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon plays out like a love letter to queer kids. Sixteen-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson, Jurassic World) is quirky and endearing, as the lead character in a chipper teen movie should be. He’s relatable, even if you aren’t gay, and for the first time in teen cinematic history, we have a love story that is particular to the gay teen dating experience. Love, Simon celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in a “we’re just like everybody else” type of way. As the 90th Annual Academy Awards declared earlier this month, “Representation Matters.”
Sandwiched between two of my very best friends from high school, in the same movie theatre we used to frequent as teenagers, I felt nostalgic, giddy and genuinely happy watching this film. Gay (as in happy), if you will. It took a long time to get here though: back in high school, math tests and house parties were on our adolescent minds, just like the kids in this movie. But the main character Simon Spier has something else on his mind, too. There’s another gay kid at school, anonymously known as “Blue,” and Simon blindly pursues him after the pair exchange a string of honest and flirtatious emails. Just like Simon, I struggled with my sexuality, and mid-way through the film, I wondered how a movie like this would personally affect me growing up. The Birdcage or To Wong Foo were mainstream enough, but they were too mature for thirteen-year-old me. I watched them anyway, but a movie like this would have felt Godsent, in retrospect. Love, Simon is important, and it respectfully integrates homosexuality into an otherwise heteronormative high school experience that gay teens everywhere will relate to.
It’s important to note that Simon Spier is luckier than most kids from the get-go. The only thing he truly struggles with is his sexuality – he has great friends, a supportive family, his own car, and never seems to worry about money (he’s never seen working but can afford to buy his friends coffee on the way to school every morning). It’s crucial that moviegoers, especially gay teens, remember this when they watch Love, Simon: the events that take place regarding coming out and bullying unfold like a tiny dose of homophobia-lite. It’s 2018, so we’d like to expect that homophobia is regarded as wrong and reprimandable, but it can and has been overlooked and unsafe; violent and even fatal for far too long. In the Trans community, it’s an epidemic. Homo/transphobia is taught, and sometimes the people you’d expect to stand up for equality will do the exact opposite. So yes, Simon is a very cute and impressionable character, but he’s fictional. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Simon has a layer of privilege other teens – simply put – do not.
Enter the gaggle of supporting characters helping Simon on his journey of self-discovery. They are all well cast and their heterosexual reactions to Simon’s homosexual love affair will undeniably pull at your heartstrings. If you like movies that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, this is your jam. That’s what this movie sets out to do, anyways, and it does it so well. Simon’s parents, Emily (Jennifer Garner, Alias) and Jack Spier (Josh Duhamel, Transformers: The Last Knight) are picture perfect and hilariously oblivious. Their star power is subdued but not downplayed, and their characters remind me of how my own parents reacted when I came out, which was sentimental in and of itself.
Some of the other young actors in Love, Simon have already left lasting impressions with teen audiences, like Simon’s best friend Leah (Katherine Langford), and classmate Cal (Miles Heizer), who both starred in last year’s controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. It’s almost as if Love, Simon is the high-energy, feel-good opposite of the dark teenage downward spiral that 13 Reasons Why conveyed. And it’s arguably just as groundbreaking.
Screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (TV’s This Is Us) triumphantly bring the film’s characters to life with witty one-liners and Chicken Soup for the Soul-ish moments of romance and friendship. Abby (Alexandra Shipp, X-Men: Dark Phoenix), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming), Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale, TV’s The Flash), Lyle (Joey Pollari, TV’s American Crime), and Martin (Logan Miller, A Dog’s Purpose), round up the list of diverse and talented actors and their dynamics help string this ode of modern love together beautifully.
Somewhat overdramatized or played up for the sake of storytelling, director Greg Berlanti (executive producer of TV’s The Flash and Supergirl) adapts this cheerfully impactful story with finesse. The 1h 50m feature film focuses on an inner struggle so many teenagers go through, and there are some thought-provoking learning lessons within the silver linings of the moral of the story, too.
Finally, it’s not that it’s too late for this movie to come out as there is always room for more queer-centric art in mainstream media, it’s that selfishly, it didn’t come out soon enough. I do however take comfort in knowing that for somebody, somewhere, Love, Simon has come out at exactly the right time.
“Everyone deserves a great love story.”
4 Popcorn Kernels / 5
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.