John Hughes set the bar when it comes to high school coming of age stories. Movies like Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club show how empathetic a filmmaker he really was, and how he believed that everybody’s story, even teenagers’, mattered. Love, Simon not only embodies the spirit of John Hughes of the past, but raises the bar on what all coming of age stories should be judged against. Simon, as he himself puts it, is just an average kid in high school, with a loving family, a group of entertaining and caring friends and an overall positive outlook on life. However, he has a big secret that he’s been hiding: he is gay. With 208 days of his senior year, he plans on keeping his secret until a mysterious classmate named Blue reveals in a blog site that’s he’s gay. Simon becomes determined to find out the identity of his secret pen pal, all while juggling school, friends and family.
The music in this movie fits the moods perfectly. It has a perfect balance of today’s pop and hits from the past. It’s hard not to think of the final scene of The Breakfast Club every time you hear Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” The same will be said about Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “Love Simon.”
The movie’s cast is great, with the writing giving them all unique personalities and direction allowing them to make the roles their own. Simon’s likable friends Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Leah (Katherine Langfor), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.) who lovingly admit they drink way too much coffee, all bring great characteristics. They have an easy group to love and you might want them to be your friends. Their presence is naturalistic, their chemistry is heartwarming, and watching them together is pure joy. Simon’s parents, Emily (Jennifer Garner) and Jack (Josh Duhamel), nail their roles. It’s nice to see the parents not as the bad guys, but as people who love their kid no matter what. Mr. Worth (Tony Hale) threatens to steal the movie as Simon’s exceedingly dorky vice principal. His unrelenting and clueless approach to connecting with each student is endearing and laugh out loud funny. Every one of the cast members are unique and memorable.
The beats of the movie are predictable. Simon has been forced into an unpleasant situation by the film’s ostensible villain, but the series of events that transpire cause an already repressed powder keg of emotions to reach a boiling point. By the time Love, Simon reaches the predictable second act wrinkle that will force our hero into making a stand, accepting responsibility, and letting self-love become part of the equation, the results are assuredly devastating and resonant.
What to take away
Love, Simon is not a great GLBT movie: It’s just a great movie. This movie perfectly encapsulates the fear, anxiety, and dread that come with discovering that you’re different and that the most important people in your life might not accept you for who you are. Love, Simon will be an important film to many, and even with a few bumps along the way, it earns its heart, which it proudly wears on its sleeve.
Starring: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jack Spier, Jennifer Garner Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Keiynan Lonsdale, Miles Heizer, Logan Miller, Talitha Bateman, Tony Hale,
Score: 4.5 out of 5