An Extremely Delightful Movie
“It’s adorable!” a snow-capped lady of a certain age chirped as she left a screening of the teen romantic comedy Love, Simon. Other members of the audience seemed to feel the same way, for they cheered and clapped as the movie ended. And yes, indeed, the film is adorable, as are the young cast members in this Greg Berlanti-directed ode to teenagers in love, be they straight or gay.
Young Simon, played by classically handsome newcomer Nick Robinson, is a typical teenager, if there is such a thing. He has a nice family, composed of mom (the ravenously beautiful Jennifer Garner), dad (Greg Duhamel, aging gracefully like a latter-day Cary Grant), and a deliciously cute little sister (Talitha Bateman) who dreams of becoming a great chef when she grows up. Nothing unusual here. They live in a beautiful house in Atlanta where the movie was filmed.
Simon has his coterie of close friends whom he drives to school every day. There’s Leah (Katherine Langford), a girl he has known for 13 years, Abby (Alexandra Shipp) the smokey beauty with the big eyes, and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.). Another friend is Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale) an African-American student who is popular with everyone. They all laugh and cry together, argue, fool around, go to parties, and do what most teens do -- have fun. Director Berlanti -- not much older than the cast -- shows great insight into the actions and behavior of young people on the verge of adulthood.
But Simon struggles with a secret. He’s gay, and has been hiding it from his family and friends. He doesn’t know what to do. Internally, he’s torn apart. He wants to come out in his own way but is perplexed and scared. Robinson has grasped the character perfectly as one who is confused, baffled, emotionally immobilized and terrorized by what people may think if he tells them of his true sexual orientation. This young actor has the advantage of playing an extremely likeable person as Simon, and one everyone will want to adopt. He’s smart, kind, funny, and a normally-acting handsome young man. Who wouldn’t like him? His fears may only be internally disruptive to his life.
As a boy of today who uses the internet and electronic devices easily, Simon escapes into an inner world with a pal over the internet. He doesn’t know who it is, but the other boy is also hiding from his sexuality. Simon desperately wants to meet him, but the other boy is too scared to reveal himself. Is it someone Simon already knows?
Simon confides only to Abby, an accepting and sympathetic pal. Martin (Logan Miller), another boy at school, coerces Simon to introduce him to Abby because he has a crush on her. Martin, a kind of class clown, is normally a pain in the neck to Simon. Although he has been instrumental in causing Simon a lot of pain and humiliation at school, Simon manages to deal with the embarrassment. It’s here that Robinson’s Simon handles things with humor and flair and wisdom beyond his years. This young actor shows terrific promise. He’s sure to be a heartthrob to the bubble-gum set in future films.
Love, Simon is not all angst and turmoil; in fact, most of the cast members are very funny as only teens can be when immersed in their own special environment. Stand-outs are Jorge Landeborg, Jr., Keiynan Lonsdale and Logan Miller, Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford as the friends in Simon’s life.
In general, this film comes across as lighthearted and funny. It is not buried under the burden of a gay teen’s coming out to family and friends resulting in grave drama. Instead, the movie is done with humor and understanding. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. We all have had problems as a teen-ager finding our way through life. Love the people around you. You never know what hurt they may be going through, and that seems to be the message in this extremely delightful movie.
(Released by Fox 2000 Pictures/ Twentieth Century Fox. Rated “PG-13” for thematic elements, sexual references, language, and teen partying.)