The Bock’s Office: ‘Love, Simon’ a hopeful teen romance
All of us have gone through the rollercoaster that is adolescent love, though not all have had certain other woes heaped on them at the same time. For those who have comes a film like “Love, Simon.”
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your everyday American teenager — a lover of vintage vinyl, eater of Oreos and a guy who never minds driving carpool for his best friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.).
However, there is one side to him that he has never shared with anyone: He’s gay.
Having been in the closet for several years, Simon has never found a good way to come out to his peers, much less to his younger sister (Talitha Bateman) and parents (Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner).
It’s not so much a concern of being shunned so much as them not fully understanding his mindset that has kept him from revealing his secret, but it’s when he sees an anonymous online post from another kid in the same situation that he finally finds someone who gets what he’s experiencing.
Trading emails with this unknown person helps him start to gather his courage and possibly be forthcoming about his orientation, yet when a classmate (Logan Miller) discovers this correspondence and uses it to blackmail him, Simon not only has to worry about his own secret but that of this faceless companion.
After portraying various degrees of teenage angst the past few years in “The Kings of Summer,” “Everything, Everything,” “Being Charlie” and “Jurassic World,” Robinson faces a different kind of challenge than the Indominus Rex with a complex kid like Simon. On the one hand, he’s not confident enough in his sexuality to act on his feelings, though he’s certainly not confused about liking boys or girls, with a string of awkward relationships only part of the evidence that he can’t ignore much longer.
You don’t wake up from dreams about Harry Potter that many nights in a row without sensing something.
Of course, you couldn’t ask for better parents to tell your deepest secret, with Duhamel and Garner ideal as his loving folks, a pair of high school sweethearts with the perfect marriage.
No, really, perfect marriage.
Out of Simon’s circle of pals, there’s an uneven amount of development, namely his closest friend, Leah, whom he has known his entire life, sharing a couple’s costume at Halloween, all the while each of whom is completely oblivious to the emotions the other is harboring.
That’ll end well.
Lendeborg is likewise without much of a personality as Nick, his other lifelong best friend, a soccer player with an eye for Abby, the group’s newest addition, with Shipp giving a much stronger performance as a girl dealing with much more family drama than anyone around her.
Miller is hard to hate as Martin, an aggressively flirty, would-be magician with a bottomless drawer of dorky graphic tees who wants to promote himself as the likeable underdog as he also attempts to win over Abby.
You know, because the fastest way to a girl’s heart is to threaten her best friend.
There will never be a shortage of “be yourself” movies, but even though there are few directly marketed to certain demographics, you don’t have to be in Simon’s exact shoes to appreciate his situation.
Gay or straight, popular or an outsider, no matter how comfortable you may feel with yourself, there is always the fear that your loved ones can’t or won’t make the effort to see the world through your eyes, and let’s be honest, this theme is universal if you’re in middle school, high school or beyond.
What makes this coming-of-age feature a little less successful than it should be is Simon’s lack of concrete opposition.
Apart from seeing his one openly gay classmate called a “fag” — almost lovingly — the kid hardly has to worry about being the victim of a hate crime at a remarkably tolerant school where even a grand romantic gesture at the Homecoming game that fails spectacularly doesn’t become nearly as much a laughingstock as you’d expect beyond a few mean memes.
You tell me if this is an accurate depiction of suburban Atlanta…
Still, the upside of this is the idea that for all the differences in an emotional time, there’s hope that we can find more similarities and compassion than enmity.
The charm of “Love, Simon” is that it’s all about discovering the heartbreaks and triumphs that feel all the more intense from the teenage perspective. Admit it, your life would be destroyed too if you saw your crush making out with someone dressed as a Minion.