Movie review: Love, Simon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a gay teen romance that made a straight adult believe in love again. I’m kidding. But also, not really. Anyways, this is Love, Simon!

IMDb summary: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

Writing

Love, Simon was written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (the showrunners of This is Us), based on the book ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ (amazing title, tbh) by Becky Albertalli. I like to think (and pretend) that with me getting older, my tastes are changing and maturing. While that is true to some extent, I’m also very prone to living in the past, so, even though I’m close to finishing university, nothing pleases me more than a trip down memory lane into my high-school years. Thus, I’ll take a high school teen movie any day of the week. From that whole nonsensical babble, you can probably guess that I loved (pun, very much, intended) Love, Simon. Also, I haven’t read the book prior to seeing the movie, so I can’t comment on any plot or character changes. I will say this: the movie definitely made me want to read the book.

So, to begin with, I loved the mix of old teen movie tropes and new contemporary ideas in the writing of the movie. I absolutely loved the message concerning identity – whether related to sexuality or not – and how the reveal of one’s identity is always a scary thing, even when it will probably be accepted. Still, I wish the movie underscored a bit more the fact that the reaction to Simon’s coming out was a borderline, best case scenario. And yet, this movie was more focused on an individual story rather than on broader social issues, so maybe it should not be penalized for not addressing the bigger problems? Maybe its goal was to just tell a love story rather than to make a political statement (let’s leave political statements for Moonlight or Call Me By Your Name?).

And that love story was great. It felt real and heartfelt, but also quite sappy. And why shouldn’t it be sappy? Why hetero-normative stories can be allowed to be so sickly sweet romantic and gay ones not? Everyone deserves a great love story and the movie not only tells that but does it too. Still, while that whole love story was all cute and escapist on screen, please be careful when meeting people online. Catfish situations are plentiful in the real world.

Anyways, going back to talking about the treatment of identity in the movie, this time in relation to the specific identity of a gay teen – I loved how the movie both played into the stereotype but also subverted it. Love, Simon was great at showcasing that one’s sexuality need not be the defining factor of one’s identity and, let alone, whole life. I highly appreciated the film’s underlying focus on the fact that nothing has to change just because somebody comes out as gay. I also really liked the fact that, while the script made the viewers relate to and understand the lead Simon, it also did not over-idealize him. Simon still had flaws and hurt other people and his actions should not be excused just because he had a secret. They should be excused because he was human, like all of us.

Lastly, while Love, Simon had some nice messages about identity and some adorable romantic moments, it also had some great instances of humor. A lot of the jokes and situation were cringe-y and awkward (and very teen appropriate). However, an equal amount of jokes were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

Directing

Love, Simon was directed by Greg Berlanti – the master of the DC TV’s Arrowverse as well as the writer/producer of the beloved teen shows like Dawson’s Creek and, more recently, Riverdale. I thought that he did quite a good job with his 3rd feature film that he directed (it has been 8 years since the last one). Berlanti himself is gay but I don’t want to assume that his personal experiences anyway impacted his decision to direct this film.

No matter the reasons, he did a great job. Love, Simon was a well-paced dramedy, with a good mix of lighter comedic moments and deeper emotional scenes. The cinematography and camera work were also both good – typical of a mainstream drama, though some overhead shots were pretty neat and unique. The production/set design was great too. I loved the design of Simon’s room as well as that whole dream sequence about him being gay in college. The soundtrack was lovely too. I loved the final song ‘Wild heart’ by Bleachers.

Acting

Love, Simon’s cast consisted of up-and-coming talent that you might have seen in other films/TV shows aimed at younger (and not only) audiences. The lead was played by Nick Robinson (who was absolutely amazing in this film – real and relatable) who you might remember from Jurassic World but also another YA adaptation Everything, Everything. His friend group consisted of 13 Reasons Why Katherine Langford, X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (who had a tiny role in Spider-Man: Homecoming). Keiynan Lonsdale (known by a lot of fans of Berlanti’s work as the Kid Flash on The Flash) and Miles Heizer (also of 13 Reason Why but Nerve too – another modern teen movie) also had small roles in the film.

On the adult front, Josh Duhamel (Transformers 5) and Jennifer Garner played Simon’s parents and had a couple of heartfelt and a couple of funny scenes concerning modern parenting. Tony Hale (weirdly, also from Transformers, but also Veep which I really need to watch) and Natasha Rothwell played the vice-principal and the drama teacher, respectively, and were sort of cartoonish. Their jokes went too far at times but they still somehow worked in the context of the movie.

In short, Love, Simon was a great teen dramedy that had the timeless appeal of a John Hughes’ film and the representation of the modern times!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Love, Simon trailer

Love,_Simon_poster.png

 

Advertisements

Movie review: The Finest Hours

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Welcome to the first post-awards’ season movie review! On Saturday, I went to see not one but two films, which accidentally both starred Casey Affleck. So, let’s talk about one of them – The Finest Hours – a film that comes from the studio that I am most biased about.

IMDb summary: The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

Films released in the time period between January and February are usually considered to be B level pictures and no one thinks that they can earn any money or be critically acclaimed (well, except Deadpool – that movie kinda broke all the stereotypes). So, going into the screening of The Finest Hours, I didn’t expect anything, thus, I was able to enjoy the film for what it was – a solid average motion picture. I mainly wanted to see this film because I am a fan of Chris Pine and because I do enjoy this genre of films – biographical dramas.

Disney

I have mentioned in the opening that Disney is the studio that I am most biased about. That’s because a lot of my favorite properties come from studios which belong to Disney: Pixar and Disney animation studios, Disney’s live-action fairytales division, Marvel Studios and Lucas Films. However, The Finest Hours was not made by any of these fan favorite sud-divisions/departments. It comes from Disney Motion Picture section, which doesn’t really have that good of a track record. One of their latest films was Tomorrowlandwhich I absolutely hated. So, The Finest Hours had to reach a very low bar of quality to be enjoyable. And, to my mind, it raised that bar a little bit higher, not a lot, but a tiny bit.

Writing

The screenplay for the film was written by a trio of scriptwriters: Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy. The film was inspired and partly adapted from the book  The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue with 32 survivors in 1952 by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. This trio of writers has previously worked on another biographical drama – David O. Russell’s The Fighter. While I did enjoy the story and a few aspects of the script, I had quite a lot of problems with it as well. Let’s go through them one by one.

  1. I didn’t like the fact the movie started with the love story and then did the tiniest time jump for no real reason. I also think that the film would constantly go off the rails when it would jump back to the love story plotline. The trailers promised the viewers a film about a ship rescue mission, and only like 35% of the film were about that mission. The rest 65% were full of forced love stories and unnecessary backstories.
  2. The film hinted a few times that the Coast Guard’s characters had a shared history – some unsuccessful mission in the past. However, this idea was never fully explained or explored. It only created unwanted tension in the group.
  3. The unwanted tension theme was also present in the group of sailors. The antagonism in that group just seemed repetitive. The film would have benefited if it would have explored the inner relations in one group, rather than having two groups with inside disagreements which are never analyzed.
  4. The two groups were not only similar in that they had inside problems but because their leaders were really similar. Both Affleck’s and Pine’s characters were quiet, calm and private. They could have been distinguished little more.
  5. At times, the film’s dialogue did not make much sense and seemed a tiny bit pointless. The whole plot also suffered from the same problem.
  6. The movie was really slow. It seemed like it was maybe building up to the epic rescue act, but the finale that the viewers got was very underwhelming. The deadline structure crumbled when the actual deadline was reached. Once again, the constant shifting between the land and the ship, with more focus paid to the land scenes, did not help the movie at all as well. I wanted the action to start but it basically never did. I also wanted to spend more time with the ship crew and to see (in detail), how they managed to keep the ship afloat.
  7. I also had a few problems with the rationality of the rescue mission. For one, why would you take an outsider on a really hard rescue mission even if he has volunteered?
  8. I do understand that a lot of the things that I penalize the movie for might just be the aspects of the actual real life events. However, since this film was not a documentary and was only based on real events, the filmmakers had the power (and the right and even maybe an obligation) to change the minor details of the story to make a better film.
  9. Lastly, the patriarchal/matriarchal undertones were not needed in the film like this. Or if they really wanted to include them, they should have explored that side storyline a bit more.

In short, all the minuses of the writing are basically missed opportunities. Some plotlines should have been cut, then there would have been more time to explore the other, more interesting storylines. The action should have been focused a bit more and the characters should have gotten more development.

Now, on ]to the writing features that I liked. The idea of turning the cars’ headlights on was a nice one, although I kinda predicted it.I would have been really mad if they would not have done it since it was an obvious solution. I also enjoyed that they included a tiny snippet of a sailor song. Overall I did enjoy the ending of the film as well and the rescue mission, while way too short, was, at least, interesting.

Directing and Visuals

Craig Gillespie directed the film. I quite liked his previous movie – sports drama Million Dollar Arm (I have been watching a lot of sports movies lately). I enjoyed the slow motion water shots and the mobile frame in the ship sequences. I found it interesting how the filmmakers decided to structure some scenes in a way that the character who was talking was not in focus (just a blurry figure) and the listener was the one that the camera focused on. Plus, the ship’s CGI was really nice and real-looking. I also loved that they ended the film with the photos of the real-life rescue mission that this movie was trying to recreate. These historical photos during the credits just nicely tie the fictionalized story to the real one in these semi-documentary/semi-fictional films.

Acting

The movie had a huge cast and I think that all the supporting characters did a nice job. I especially liked when the fear could be seen in characters’/actors’ eyes during the intense situations in the close-up shots. Since the film had an extensive cast, I will only mention a few of the leads down bellow.

  • Chris Pine as Bernie. At first, it was quite weird seeing Pine in a role of a shy-ish and a bit socially awkward Bernie, as Pine usually plays very cool and confident characters (like in Star Trek or in all the films where he played a prince/a lord). He did a really nice job in this unusual (for him) role, so I think that this just proves that he has some range as an actor. I can’t wait to see him in the Wonder Woman movie.
  • Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert. The fact that Casey will always be known as Ben Affleck’s brother kinda irritates because he is a good actor and should be known for his own work. I liked him in this film as well as in the other film of his that I saw on Saturday – Triple 9 (review coming next).
  • Holliday Grainger as Miriam. Miriam was supposed to be this strong and independent female character. However, I don’t know if Granger’s portrayal was not that good or if the character was written this way in the script, but Miriam just came across as really annoying for the majority of the film. I really wanted to like her and support her as the strong female character (as I am a female movie fan), but just couldn’t. Her scenes made me cringe and she was one of the reasons why I wanted the movie to focus less on the land scenes and more on the ship’s scenes.
  • The familiar face of Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Wally West on my current favorite TV show The Flash, popped on screen and pleasantly surprised me. I was happy seeing him getting more work. He also plays a supporting character in the Divergent series, so we will see also see him next month in the Allegiant.

To sum up, The Finest Hours was a promising film that never delivered as much as I wanted it to deliver. It has amazing performances and interesting visuals, while the script of the film was the part that let the whole feature down.

Rate: 3.65/5

Trailer: The Finest Hours trailer

finest_hours_ver2