Starring Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Love, Simon has been called a Disney-fied version of Call Me By Your Name. That’s both unfair (this is 20th Century Fox, and they have done a great marketing job) and expected. It’s from the team that made millions with The Fault in Our Stars, and a savvy director, televisions Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Arrow), who is harnessing the diversity he has created on CW’s teen-oriented shows. Love, Simon opens with lead actor Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, Everything Everything) telling the audience, he us just like us; And so this film is like many other teenage, romance, coming of age stories, it’s just that the lead character in this one happens to be gay. It’s a family friendly, albeit fantasy version, of modern day high school life, but it has its charming moments that are intended to inspire, encourage and bring people closer together.
Senior Simon Spier (Robinson) has known he was gay for a while, but it’s a secret kept to himself. An anonymous post on the school’s public forum, authored by someone named Blue, describes having the same feelings as Simon, he reaches out. Neither know the others identity, but they start an online flirtation that gives them both the courage to make baby steps toward coming out. Simon is a pretty well liked, popular guy in school, best friends, amazing parents, a loving home, but his secret is eating him alive. When school clown Martin (Logan Miller) accidentally discovers his secret, he blackmails Simon into setting him up with best friend Abby (Shipp). Now he is juggling more lies than he can handle and getting farther away from the person he really wants to portray.
This is a movie that wants everyone to leave the theater happy, and even though is sacrifices some really missed opportunities, it’s hard to argue with happy.
This adorable film manages to shuffle between smart comedy, light teenage romance and life lessons rather successfully. Simon is supposed to represent the every-guy, which is a nice fantasy, but his character isn’t the one most people will be identifying with. Love, Simon feels more focused on making straight audience members feel comfortable than anything else. Jennifer Garner (Miracles from Heaven) as the wholly supportive liberal mother is fine, but anyone could have played that part. The mother or father (Duhamel) roles don’t contain a fraction of the insight and game changing power Michael Stuhlbarg’s father figure in Call My By Your Name represented. Love, Simon isn’t a film that will change lives, but still serves an important purpose.
Much like the recent film Wonder teaches tolerance and understanding for those who might look a little different, Love, Simon is on the same level. It’s a well-intentioned film that changes a few ingredients but follows a familiar formula. Some of the scripts insightful highlights include a realistic ode to Game of Thrones and a scene stealing character/performance from drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell). One character we could have done without was the eccentric vice principal (Tony Hale), leaning entirely too far on the slapstick side. This is a movie that wants everyone to leave the theater happy, and even though is sacrifices some really missed opportunities, it’s hard to argue with happy.
Pretty difficult not to Love, Simon.