If you're one of those people who only reads the first sentences of movie reviews, here you go: Love, Simon is FANTASTIC, and you should see it IMMEDIATELY.
Still here? Okay! Because Love, Simon being as good as it is was hardly a given. It's based on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is one of those rare books that's just about perfect. Becky Albertalli's 2015 YA novel is funny and smart, sweet and hopeful, and consistently surprising–a quick, addictive read that taps into everything awkward, joyous, awful, and great about being a teenager.
The best thing about it, though, is Simon himself: A clever, kind kid with a loving family and good friends, he's having a hell of a time figuring out how–or if–he should come out. From the book's first pages, it's impossible not to love the kid–to want the best for him, to cheer him on, to help him fix things when he fucks up. Not many YA protagonists feel as real as Simon, regardless of whether he's going through great stuff or drama.
Simon's great stuff includes: a secret email relationship with Blue, another closeted kid at his school. Simon doesn't know who Blue really is, and Blue doesn't know who Simon really is, but through hesitantly typed emails, the two find the beginnings of a relationship that's inspiring and complicated.
Simon's drama includes: his dipshit classmate Martin, who stumbles onto his emails with Blue–and threatens to share them with everyone if Simon doesn't do what he says.
Leading up to its release, Greg Berlanti's film adaptation of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda looked pretty lousy: There was the genericized new title, a less-than-promising trailer, and a poster featuring Simon–now played by Nick Robinson–smirking like a jackass. The biggest hurdle, though, was the book itself: Albertalli's insightful novel is about teenagers thinking and typing–two things that don't necessarily lead to thrilling big-screen visuals.
Love, Simon thrums with heightened emotions, but it never feels false or silly; director Greg Berlanti's smart enough to treat these kids like real, complicated people, and the result is a movie that feels both truthful and ridiculously engaging.
So, right. Where was I? Oh, yeah: Love, Simon is FANTASTIC, and regardless of whether you've read the book, you should see it IMMEDIATELY.
True, Love, Simon is a dumb title that's probably intended to avoid offending blue-state homophobes, and yeah, the trailer isn't great. But I'm sorry for saying Nick Robinson smirks like a jackass, because he's an excellent Simon, and somehow takes a largely internal character and makes his emotions, challenges, and triumphs come across onscreen. He gets help from Berlanti's breezy direction and an unexpected soundtrack: Brenton Wood's 1967 "The Oogum Boogum Song" and "Someday at Christmas" by the Jackson 5 don't seem like they should work in a movie about teenagers in 2018, but they do.
The rest of Love, Simon's cast is great, too, from Simon's believable, likeable friends (Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and 13 Reasons Why's Katherine Langford) to his potential love interests. (Whenever Simon runs into a cute guy from school, he can't help but wonder: Could this be Blue?) As Simon's supportive but in-the-dark parents, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel nail it. (Turns out that Duhamel, having escaped beefcake roles in things like Transformers, is the perfect guy to play Simon's awkward, earnest dad.) Arrested Development and Veep's Tony Hale threatens to steal the movie as Simon's exceedingly dorky vice principal, and even Logan Miller, who's stuck playing the blackmailing, imminently slappable Martin, is good! And he contributes to another thing Love, Simon gets right: the deeply cringey melodrama inherent in every high school theater clique. (The drama dweebs at Simon's school are putting on Cabaret. It goes about like you'd expect.)
Love, Simon thrums with those same heightened emotions, but it never feels false or silly; Berlanti's smart enough to treat these kids like real, complicated people, and the result is a movie that feels both truthful and ridiculously engaging. It's been a while since I heard any movie audience react with as much laughter and enthusiasm–and gasps–as they did at my screening.
Sure, there are a few problems: Simon's upper-class life, which is addressed in the book, is treated as the default here, and one moment that's exaggerated for the screen feels a little too exaggerated. But considering everything else, it feels petty to quibble. In an era when each day brings new attacks on decency, diversity, and dignity, there's something remarkable and heartening about seeing a movie that tells this story, and tells it this well, and is this much fun. You'll walk out of Love, Simon feeling great, and like life might be worth living after all. In 2018, I can't think of a higher recommendation–or a better reason to get to the theater already.