For decades, gay characters have been portrayed in movies, mostly as the sassy sidekick, or to show the struggle and pain of being gay. In 2018, teens are more progressive than ever before, and Hollywood is releasing its first major studio film centered on a gay teenager. Much like Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Jerry Maguire,” Hollywood is all about the money. So, it’s a good thing that “Love, Simon” is a heartwarming and entertaining movie that is sure to become a teen classic, whether it’s a box office gold or not.
Simon has an admittedly normal – if not close to perfect – life. He opens the film by telling the audience that he has a loving family and even likes his sister, has great friends, and is pretty popular. The only difference between him and most of the students at his school is that he has a secret. And what is that secret? He’s gay.
There’s only one student at school who’s gay, and he doesn’t exactly help instill comfort that “it gets better.” But all of that changes when another student anonymously posts to a local website about being gay. Not knowing who this mysterious student is, Simon strikes up an email exchange in order to find a kindred spirit. When one of his classmates finds out about the emails, things take a turn for poor Simon, though.
What is most remarkable about “Love, Simon” is how ordinary it is, despite its groundbreaking nature. The film doesn’t go out of its way to make Simon “gay enough” or play into stereotypes. There is a contrast that the film does make between Simon and a more stereotypical gay character, but it also doesn’t use that character as a source for comic relief.
Lending pathos to the film is super producer Greg Berlanti, who’s stepping into the director’s chair. The filmmaker, who is gay, handles the story — based on the book, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” — with care.. Along with screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, Berlanti adds just the right mix of humor and drama to give the film a John Hughes-ian vibe.
Filled with a cast of mostly up-and-comers, “Love, Simon” is stacked with talent. In the title role, Nick Robinson (“Jurassic World”) is on his way to heartthrob status. He nails being relatable, while also being able to effortlessly play the romantic lead role. His friends are played by Katherine Langford (“13 Reasons Why”), Alexandra Shipp (The “X-men” movies), and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (“Spiderman: Homecoming”). They are a diverse group in what they bring to the table and help to lend an authenticity to the film. Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents. It’s hard to believe that they are old enough to have a high school child, but it’s good to see Garner doing something other than Capital One commercials – even if there isn’t much more required of her for the film.
To be honest, “Love, Simon” is probably better than it has any business being. It’s both funny and touching at times, and will win over even the biggest skeptic. Simon is just a regular kid looking for love — and regardless of how things play out, it’s a sure bet that moviegoers will fall hard for Simon.