Review: Trailblazing ‘Love, Simon’ doesn’t earn stripes
Mediocre teenage romantic comedies aren’t just for heterosexual characters anymore.
In an important, long-overdue move, “Love, Simon” is the first major studio film to center on a closeted teen character. That distinction gives it a heft it doesn’t otherwise earn. It’s a warm-but-thin rom-com that isn’t particularly noteworthy outside of its trailblazing subject matter. Its heart is in the right place, however, which gives it a light stamp of approval.
“Jurassic World’s” Nick Robinson is hugely appealing as Simon, a high-schooler with a secret: He’s gay. He bristles (as does the audience) when his father (Josh Duhamel) makes casual cracks about “fruity” guys. Rather than come out to his parents (mom is Jennifer Garner) or his peers in this hetero-normative environment, he keeps his sexuality to himself.
He finds solace in an anonymous online relationship with a classmate, and “Love, Simon” becomes a guessing game as to who the mystery man might be. Meanwhile, Simon is blackmailed by a weaselly fellow student, Martin (Logan Miller), who learns his secret and threatens to out him if he doesn’t set him up with one of his friends.
Too much attention and screen time is given to the Martin storyline; there’s a cringe-worthy scene in a Waffle House where he makes a loud pronouncement to the entire diner that’s meant to be triumphant, but winds up falling on its face. It’s time that would be better spent with Simon and his internal struggle, but the script, based on Becky Albertalli’s novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” turns Simon and his reveal into a game-show scenario, a clumsy handling of sensitive subject matter.
But the teen rom-com genre has never been known for its nuance or subtlety, and that’s no different here. “Love, Simon” is at least true to its roots. In a way, John Hughes would be proud.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying
Running time: 110 minutes