Sunday, May 13, 2018

Love, Simon

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a teenager with a totally normal life. His father Jack (Josh Duhamel) is the jock quarterback who married high school valedictorian Emily (Jennifer Garner). His sister Nora (Talitha Bateman) is an aspiring chef, meaning they are all her test subjects who have to eat whatever she bakes. He hangs out with his best friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) almost all day. His life is totally normal, except that he has one huge-ass secret: He is gay. Not willing to tell anyone, he finds solace when another teenager at school anonymously outs himself on CreekSecrets under the pseudonym Blue. Feeling an instant connection, the two correspond via email to talk about their experiences. When a classmate finds out about the secret correspondence, he threatens blackmail. Is Simon ready to come out once and for all or will he do everything to not lose the anonymous friend he has started to develop feelings for?

Belonging to the ever ubiquitous coming of age genre, Love Simon does not really stand out as a young adult feature. In terms of presentation, it’s not at all a breakthrough and there are dozens of other films that have done a better job. What makes this narrative worthy of praise and celebration is obviously the long delayed statement it makes about inclusion because, lest we forget, most of the films in this genre have focused mostly on white heterosexuals, as if teenagers didn’t exist outside of that demographic.

Given the circumstances and coming in an era of Hollywood where representation is the big buzzword, Love Simon deserves all the praise it has been getting if only because of that very message of inclusion that it celebrates. At the same time it feels rather strange for it to be considered as a milestone as if gay teenagers just surfaced on the planet in the last few years or so when in reality, they have always been present in society.

The silver lining in all of this is that this could be the beginning of awareness regarding demographics that have been marginalized for the longest time, not only the LGBTQ but everyone who has felt left out because he or she has never seen himself or herself represented in cinema. In this regard, Love Simon succeeds, but the tricky part is determining whether this is just a phase in Hollywood. Let the LGBTQ, the Asians, the African Americans have their moment, just to shut them up before we go back to regular programming. Hopefully, this wouldn’t be the case.

You know you are old when Jennifer Garner looks the same now and a decade ago but has since transitioned from girl next door/kick-ass roles to every troubled teenager’s onscreen mother. She and Duhamel do not have much screen time, but they do offer solid support in making the narrative a legit family affair that should be required viewing for families with similar issues. While Robinson does a great job in bringing Simon to life and help foster understanding about his dilemma, in the end the movie is a good example of ensemble acting that delivers the message it wants to convey.

Perhaps the only trouble with films like this is that it will always elicit a different reaction based on where you currently are in life. It’s funny how I found myself empathizing more with the jaded Ms. Albright and criticizing how these teenagers make everything so complicated when it really shouldn’t be, and then I realize that I was also 16 once and I would have reacted differently had I seen this 10 or 15 years ago. In the end, it’s still a funny and heartfelt narrative that encourages more tolerance and understanding, a timely and relevant case study of the society we currently live in.


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