Love, Simon (4/5) isn’t exactly subtle, but neither is being seventeen. A YA dramedy about coming out of the closet, it’s charming, big-hearted, and predictable in the warmest way possible — I love it to pieces, even as I recognize its myriad tropes (hip soundtrack cues, precocious younger siblings, “teenagers” that quip like Liberal Arts grad students with a campus as eclectic and sprawling). Greg Berlanti’s movie has its sights on a specific target audience (teenagers, parents of teenagers) and it speaks to them with infectious, empathetic verve. While the trailers made me fear something tone-deaf and message-heavy (read: a big, broad “It’s Okay To Be Gay” PSA about ten years behind the cultural Zeitgeist), what I got was sharply pointed and nothing like Glee. Set in a world where most (not all) students are generally savvy / progressive / accepting, Simon’s journey is less about coming out in the abstract, and more about the particular shape a coming-out might take. It’s a ferris wheel of awkwardness, hurt, exhaustion, relief, soaring melodrama and understated support. One such conversation with his father (Josh Duhamel) flared up my allergies more than I’d care to admit. And yet, for all its specificity, Simon evokes feelings I recognized in my own adolescence — albeit forced, with no outlet, to some higher concentration. The clunky misshapenness, the asymmetry between towering prologue and underwhelming conclusion; the unyielding desire to be fully, finally seen. The way a hint of reciprocity might sanctify a stranger into The One; the way everything is somehow both lame and not lame, is laced with irony and impossibly, earth-shatteringly important. In Magnolia, William H Macy’s character bemoans “I have so much love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.” Simon projects his so-much love onto a thousand hypothetical canvases, and they reshuffle as fluidly as highschool emotion. When all those hypotheticals finally converge in one grand, Hollywood setpiece, should we care if it’s a hokey or overdone? Does it matter if the romance lasts an hour after the credits roll? That cosmic unclenching, the freedom to project all of your selves onto one, tangible specific — the profound release of growing up is the bit that lasts. And it’s communicated beautifully.
Chris and I talk Tumblr, crushes, and Josh Gads all the way down in Episode 494: