Finally. A gay coming-of-age/love story that isn’t a big gay movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Love, Simon is more Pretty In Pink than Call Me By Your Name, an homage to, and updating of, John Hughes’ legacy. This film takes you back to angst-filled high school daze, where the stress of just being yourself (once you figure out what that is) can feel soul crushing. Only in this story, our adorable leading man is gay.
Love, Simon is a film that isn’t weighed down by or following the paths of previous coming out movies. Yes, the fear of what others will think is magnified with the specter of homophobia, but it is treated more as an obstacle that’s added to the usual pile of teen relationship issues. At its heart, the movie is about a boy trying to find the love of his young life.
When someone using the screen name Blue posts to the school’s gossip site that they’re gay and feeling alone, Simon creates an e-mail account and tells the kid he’s not the only closeted guy at the school. They fall in love over e-mails but never take the step of revealing their true identities. Eventually the e-mail chain is discovered and used as blackmail against Simon. This leads him to manipulate his friends and toy with their emotions much the way Simon fears being toyed with. Eventually the secret comes out (comes out! See what we did there?!?) and his friend are pissed, but not about being gay but for using and hurting them in order to keep his secret.
Throw in a party scene with beer pong, a school play, a Christmas surprise and a hip cool soundtrack, and you basically have all the elements of a typical high school rom-com. Just substitute Simon waiting on a ferris wheel at a carnival for Jake waiting by his car outside the church.
Clearly the movie isn’t original. But that’s what is to be celebrated! The film is awesome because it slides seamlessly into the upper echelon of teen genre like Easy A. Just as Molly Ringwald is any girl in Anyville, USA, Simon is any gay kid anywhere in America.
Load Up The Beer Pong Cups
However, Love, Simon has enough flaws and inconsistencies to make us intentionally lose at beer pong just so we can chug the beer. The movie picks and chooses the stereotypes it wants to exploit. There are a couple of kids that are the school gay bashers to the only openly out student. The way they are ultimately dealt with is simultaneously predictable and unbelievable. Honestly, the most unpredictable character is the over worked, under paid drama teacher. We could have used more of her and less of the modern, wannabe hip vice principal, played by Veep’s Tony Hale.
As for the kid who outs Simon, we knew what was coming a mile away and how it would go down. His attempt to make amends at the end feels forced and, for anyone invested in our leading man, it’s too little too late.
The parents, played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, are stereotypically modern suburban parents with just the correct and expected mix of surprise, empathy, and remorse for their kid having gone this far alone. A momentary blow up with Simon’s kid sister is out of character but understandable, but not used to further the plot or take the audience in a new or at least unexpected direction. But let’s be honest, this movie isn’t about family and home life. It’s about fitting in with your peers at school.
So while the movie is important for its homogeny to the teen genre, it missed several opportunities to bring something new besides making the lead a gay kid.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Natural Light. From a keg. Perfect for a party on the patio and a game of beer pong.