Ashley: I didn’t have many expectations for Love, Simon coming into it. I knew the movie was based on a book and the basic premise concerned a teenage boy who’s gay, hasn’t told anyone, and wasn’t sure why he hadn’t come out yet. I was definitely intrigued by the movie, as there hasn’t been a movie like this yet, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend money to watch it now or if I just wanted to wait until it was released digitally. I had seen commercials for it several times and found the “No, I broke up with you because you don’t look like a guy,” line hilarious—I’m pretty sure that’s the line that sold me on going to watch the movie. I’m really glad I went to watch it right away, though, because, despite it sometimes being cliche, there was a lot to like and take away from it.
Amanda: Somehow I didn’t know Love, Simon was based off a book until I started seeing commercials for it on TV, so I am a bit upset I didn’t get to read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens before watching the movie. But I still enjoyed the movie. And I guess not reading the book was sort of a good thing because the movie wouldn’t be spoiled for me? I actually didn’t know much about the storyline before watching the movie because the trailer and commercials didn’t say much other than Simon is a normal teenager who happens to be gay but isn’t out. Obviously Simon’s internal conflict is that he isn’t being true to himself, but it’s not the conflict of the movie. I feel like other movie trailers and commercials advertise more of the bigger conflict, but that wasn’t the case here. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Yet somehow I knew I wanted to watch it.
Carly: If I could sum up my feelings about this movie in one sentence, it would be as follows: really enjoyable but overly simplistic. For me, this movie had most of the components that make a compelling movie; it took me through the roller coaster of emotions associated familiarly endearing concepts like love, friendship, and family, but also the universal hardships of puberty, personal identity, and heartbreak. Despite not being the biggest fan of romantic comedies, I found this one to be charming and humorous. It was ripe with all of the traditional cliches, but I was able to overlook the stereotypical upper-middle class setting and glamorized portrayal of the high school experience due to the vastly important lead character, Simon. Usually queer characters are reserved for the role of comedic sidekick or emotionally supportive friend, but in this case Simon’s sexuality is the basis for the plot. This sort of representation is exactly what drew me to the movie in the first place, and I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed. Though it may have been an overly simplified depiction of the gay experience, I came away from this movie feeling better than when I went in.
What We Liked
Ashley: The Hamilton Playbill on Simon’s bulletin board was obviously the best part about the movie. As a newbie Broadway fan and someone who has listened to the Hamilton cast recording far too many times to keep track, I couldn’t help but to point it out every single time I saw it. So to whomever decided Simon should have a Hamilton Playbill, kudos to you.
On a more serious note, the characters were done well. There’s a diverse group of characters who are purposeful. It didn’t feel like characters were included just for the sake of being there. For example, Simon’s friends aren’t simply his friends. They have qualities that make them who they are and each have important interactions and moments with Simon.
Love, Simon really emphasizes love and its importance, but it’s not just romantic love. It’s the idea of love in general: You should love yourself enough to be yourself—even if it doesn’t make you popular. You should love your family and friends enough to do what’s best for them—even if it doesn’t benefit you. You should love romantically enough to show such love—even if everyone doesn’t accept it.
In terms of music, the soundtrack was really great. Outside of listening to Broadway musical cast recordings, I typically listen to alternative music, so having the likes of Bleachers and The 1975 accompanying the film was awesome.
Amanda: The soundtrack! It’s one of the first things I noticed in the movie. Once I saw Jack Antonoff’s name under executive music producer, I knew the music was going to be good. Then Bleachers started playing, then “Love Me” by The 1975, and I was into it. It has a good balance of recent alternative hits and classics.
The parallelism of the coffee scenes from the start of the movie with Simon and his friends―the middle when he’s alone and his friends have ditched him, and the end when Simon has reunited with his friends and has a boyfriend―is awesome. It’s a fun way of showing the differences and progression of Simon’s life throughout the movie.
The characters and cast were diverse, which is important. Simon and his friends weren’t all the same gender or ethnicity/race or sexual orientation (obviously). And while some things about the characters were expected or stereotypical (who was surprised Leah liked Simon?), none of them were token characters. It wasn’t like someone was the gay best friend, the dumb blonde, or the smart Asian-American, and it didn’t feel like they cast people or created characters for the sake of diversity.
What I like most about the movie, which is a big part of the trailer and TV spots, too, is that it emphasizes how Simon’s just a normal teenager. Yes, he’s gay, which isn’t “the default,” like he says in the movie, but it doesn’t really make him any different than any other teenager. His sexuality doesn’t really change who he is as a person, and it shouldn’t have because he hasn’t changed. He’s always been gay. He just hasn’t always been open about it. And I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from this movie. Being open about your sexuality and who you like doesn’t make you a different person from who you were before coming out. You may be braver or face other challenges after coming out, but at the core, you’re still the same person, just like how Simon’s the same friend and son he’s been throughout the whole movie.
Carly: There were a few key things that stood out to me throughout the film. I like how it critiqued our culture’s normalization of heterosexuality, particularly in the sense that most people assume straight to be the default. It highlights the difficulty that gender nonconforming individuals experience when having to come out, rather than the other way around. I also thought it was apropos that neither Simon nor his eventual romantic partner, Bram, were overly stereotypical. Simon wasn’t wearing flamboyant clothing or gushing over the latest gossip in a high-pitched tone; rather he seemed to have his own unique personality that incorporated a whole host of both male and female gender ideals. It’s also worth pointing out that Bram was a racially diverse character and had other unique markers that set him apart from the typical, overused male jock.
Aside from that, I thought this was a very approachable movie. It’s something you can see with your family (at the appropriate age of course), or bond over with friends. The younger generation will certainly appreciate the contemporary setting (Iced coffee for four? Text messaging in the hallways? This movie had it all), as well as the modern references and jokes. More importantly, the LBGTQ+ community will value the exposure of queer issues and queer identity.
Ashley: Simon’s group of friends includes his long-time best friends Leah and Nick and a new student, Abby. Yet I felt I got to know Abby more than Leah and Nick. Nick was characterized a bit, as he plays soccer and is humorous, but Leah came off simply as Simon’s long-time best friend (who, unsurprisingly likes Simon romantically). She has moments where her status as Simon’s best friend is justified but not much else. She’s rather static when it feels like she should have a bigger role given her relationship with the movie’s title character.
I would’ve also liked to see a more intimate moment between Simon and Nick regarding Simon’s sexuality. Boys and men being gay can be seen as detrimental to their masculinity, as it somehow makes them less of a man. As such, it’s even more difficult for them to be honest about their sexuality or for a straight guy to even be friends with a homosexual guy. That said, we know Nick doesn’t have a problem being gay, because they’re still friends afterward. But it would’ve been nice to see Nick reassure Simon of their friendship and how Simon’s sexuality doesn’t change that, as it’d reinforce how it’s okay to be a homosexual guy and that won’t make one less of a man because of it.
Also, what kind of public high school has the money to put on such an extravagant production of Cabaret—complete with huge flashy “Cabaret” signage? If such a high school exists, someone let me know. I’d like to watch their shows and then ask who’s funding their productions.
Amanda: So I’ll admit I’m not great at critiquing and reviewing things, distinguishing whether they were good or bad unless it was really bad or really good. Everything I watch and read usually ends up being in between. But even in movies I enjoyed, like this one, some things could be better.
In what universe can a public high school’s drama department put on a production of Cabaret that has a big marquee sign and fancy lights and exquisite costumes? Like, I get you want to make it look good and they actually have movie money to make this fake high school production look awesome, but it’s just highly unrealistic for a high school musical to look that good.
Movies can give people an unrealistic expectation of high school, so I would suggest being more realistic about what stuff in high school actually looks like, whether that be the school play or just student life in general. Because from what I recall, none of the characters really seemed to be worried about grades like high schoolers typically are? Maybe it’s just me being relieved about being done with school forever, but that’s a big part of being a student nowadays.
Love, Simon could have done without some of the clichés that made parts of the movie predictable. Was anyone surprised Leah had feelings for Simon? I definitely wasn’t, especially since Leah as a character didn’t have much going on other than being Simon’s best friend. I also wasn’t surprised by who Blue ended up being. Surely there was a way to make the movie have the sweet, happy rom-com, coming-of-age ending it did with a plot twist?
Carly: This movie romanticized the idea of a “normal” high school experience. It had everything from the corny football games to the wild party where someone inevitably drinks too much. There have been enough awkward sexual encounters and plenty of trashy high school gossip columns. I also didn’t love the fact that the movie started off with Simon talking about how ‘normal’ he was (aside from his big secret of course) because he had this great normal life (insert image of his white, upper middle-class nuclear family here). That isn’t everyone’s normal, and we shouldn’t pretend that it is.
I also would have liked more background on Martin’s character. I felt like there was a lot more going on below the surface, and I wanted to be able to empathize with him rather than despise him.
Ashley: LGBTQ+ youth are the obvious target audience here, but young people, in general, can all benefit from this movie. I wouldn’t even limit the audience to high schoolers. I’m a college graduate, and I could still relate to certain aspects of the movie. Simon may be the character who is trying to figure out himself and his feelings, but Love, Simon is filled with high schoolers who are all trying to understand their feelings, themselves, their peers, and how to respect others.
Amanda: It’s easy to say LGBTQ+ youth are the main target audience here, but I could also see how non-LGBTQ+ people, and especially those who aren’t allies, are a target audience. Honestly, it’s a movie all young people and those who are trying to understand more about LGBTQ+ should watch as there are a lot of takeaways from this movie for a lot of demographics.
Carly: I think that any subgroup could benefit from seeing this movie. It’s a good one to talk about with friends, and queer issues aside, there are many relatable moments and interesting characters.
Ashley: 2.5/3 stars
Amanda: 2.5/3 stars
Carly: 2.5/3 stars
Image via Fox Movies