|Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox|
The film depends on fairly timeworn plot devices and, for lack of a better word, cliches - the chummy best friend of the opposite sex, a budding romance between two of the lead's other friends and a villain, who tries to blackmail Simon into breaking up two of his friends in order to pursue the fetching Abby (Alexandra Shipp). But while the picture relies on a formula that feels familiar in Hollywood dramas about teens, never before - at least that I can recall - has such a formula been utilized to tell the story of a gay kid. Typically, in these movies, such a character would be relegated as the witty sidekick.
As the film opens, Simon has been making email contact with another closeted gay kid from his high school who goes by the name "Blue" online. Neither knows the identity of the other, and this is the first budding romance that I can recall that primarily involves technology since Spike Jonze's "Her." Simon and Blue are confidantes and inspire one another to divulge their secrets to those close to them.
But first, Simon is blackmailed by Martin (Logan Miller), a theater kid who lusts after Abby and wants Simon to turn Abby's attention away from Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Simon's soccer playing buddy who also has feelings for Abby. To complicate matters, there's also Leah (Katherine Langford), Simon's best friend who clearly has feelings for him.
One of the elements that makes "Love, Simon" interesting is that - much like last year's wonderful "Lady Bird" - the film doesn't always require its lead to be valiant. In fact, he gets rightly called out by his friends after they discover his subterfuge to help Martin, even if his cause - not being outed - is sympathetic. And one of the elements that makes the film so charming is how - also similar to "Lady Bird" - it has love for all of its characters, including minor figures - such as Simon's little sister, his parents, a dorky vice principal who thinks that he is hip and a teacher directing the school play who gets some of the best one liners.
"Love, Simon" is a warm, funny and well made youth drama. Some might say that it isn't as radical is it could have been, but I disagree. The fact that a Hollywood studio has made a mainstream teen dramedy in the style of a John Hughes film that applies many of the usual cliches - although well handled here - and placed them at the service of a story about a youth's coming out is, well, something.
This is a year in which the biggest hit so far is a comic book - no shocker there - but one made by and mostly starring African Americans. Now, this film - which has the makings of a sleeper - is another sign that Hollywood is finally starting to listen and studios' rosters are becoming more inclusive. So, yes, "Love, Simon" is a groundbreaker - but it's also a lovely coming of age story that I'd highly recommend.