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

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5 ideas about a movie: Status Update

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you haven’t heard of. This is Status Update – a clear example of what the critics (or angry online commentators) mean when they describe something as ‘millennial’.

IMDb summary: Ross Lynch stars as Kyle Moore, a teenager who after being uprooted by his parents’ separation and unable to fit into his new hometown, stumbles upon a magical app that causes his social media updates to come true.

  1. Status Update was written Jason Filardi (he wrote 17 Again) and directed by a music video director Scott Speer (who also did the last two Step Up movies and the upcoming Midnight Sun). I knew (and didn’t mind) the previous works of the duo, so I’ve had certain expectations about this film beforehand. And… it was exactly what I thought it’d be  – a typical teen dramedy with cringe-y and cool moments in an equal measure.
  2. Status Update tried being super contemporary by focusing on the impact of social media (Nerve did that more than a year ago too) and the fictional app the Universe. While the said app was really nonsensical (magic and technology rarely work together), it did have a smart thematical concept. At its core, the Universe was all about wishful thinking or imagining the best version of one’s life. And while that isn’t a healthy practice, it is also one that all people have partaken in at least once in their life. I know that I have certainly imagined quite a few ‘what if’ versions of my own life. Relating to that, I also appreciated the fact that the movie asked the question ‘who is the real you?’. Is it your social media-self or your real-world self? In the past, I had a definite answer to this question, but now, the answer is becoming harder and harder to find.
  3. While Status Update did some new things, it also heavily relied on the good old teen movie cliches. It had some really cringe-y and on-the-nose dialogue; a lot of jokes that didn’t land; and some walking caricatures for its characters (that phone guy was so annoying). It also attempted to present a diverse high school but really fell flat in its representation of a gay student (hopefully, Love, Simon fixes the trend of awful or non-existent LGBTQ+ representation).
  4. From the directing point of view, Status Update was fine. It was relatively short and the pacing was okay. It was also more musical-esque than I expected (thus, it kinda reminded me of High School Musical, which is not a bad thing to resemble, in my book). It also did look like a TV movie that could have aired on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon/Freeform/The CW. Lastly, more as a side note, I really do wonder whether anybody will remember contemporary teen movies fondly in about 30 years time, similarly to how now people feel nostalgic towards the teen films from the 1980s, like the whole filmography of John Hughes.
  5. Status Update’s cast consisted of mostly Disney Channel alumni: Ross Lynch (of Austin & Ally and Teen Beach moviesand Olivia Holt (of Kickin’ ItGirl vs. Monster, and I Didn’t Do It) played the leads. Although I have been a fan of the Disney Channel in the past, I haven’t really been keeping up with it lately (except Descendants) thus, I didn’t know any of the actors. I feel like they are from a later generation of Disney TV (not the generation of HSM, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, or Suite Life). The only actor I knew was Greg Sulkin who has been playing this type of a role for years now: he should really move on. Though, typecasting is a hard thing to escape from. Pitch Perfect’s John Michael Higgins also had a role in the movie, not too dissimilar from the one in the acapella trilogy. 

In short, Status Update made me roll my eyes as much as it made me smile. I don’t think it’s necessarily a cinema admission worthy movie but it’s certainly a great Netflix/background for chores film.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: Status Update trailer

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Movie review: Paper Towns

Movie reviews

Hello!

This is a very special blog post, because I’m going to review my favorite book’s movie adaptation. So, let’s travel to the Paper Towns and leT’s gEt loSt AnD fOuNd.

Pre-watching ideas

John Green is my favorite author. I have read all of his books multiple times and, although The Fault In Our Stars is his most famous book and was adapted to the big screen last year (TFIOS review, nail design), my favorite book of his is actually Paper Towns. My Tumblr is even named after that book (link). I am also a huge YouTube fan (my top YouTuber lists here and here), so I closely follow John and his brother Hank Green on all social media (vlogbrothers on YouTube). Their educational channels, gaming channels, Vidcon organization, and, most importantly, charity work to decrease the world suck (Project for Awesome) are all equally amazing. I haven’t found people, who inspire me to do good things for others that much. I’m also really excited that John Green made a deal with one of the biggest Hollywood production companies (Fox 2000) – I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the table, how much heart and soul he will breathe into the Hollywood cash-grabs.

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I’ve eagerly followed the making of the film since it went into pre-production. I’ve highly enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in vlogbrothers weekly videos as well as on the Internet in general. I was really happy with the casting choices, because I believe that Nat Wolff did a great job in TFIOS and I am really excited to see how Cara Delevingne transitions from modeling to acting. I am a huge fan of hers (I’ll literally buy every magazine if she is on the cover) and I can’t wait for her acting career to blow up.

When Hollywood tries to adapt a book into a motion picture, the fans get really worried about the changes that the producers and the director will have to make. However, since the author of the original material –John Green – is also an executive producer on the film, I have complete faith in him: he won’t allow the core ideas and the overall feeling of the story to be altered.

IMDb summary: A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Post-watching ideas

Directing 

The film was directed by Jake Schreier. This was only his second time directing a full-length feature, however, his past projects have quite high IMDb ratings. To my mind, Paper Towns will be one of the biggest highlights of his career. The filmed looked amazing. I enjoyed the long continual shots in the abandoned building as well as moments which were shot from the above (like Radar and Angela on a blanket; goods in the supermarket).

Writing

The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who also wrote TFIOS screenplay. Moreover, they have written a screenplay based on Looking for Alaska – a debut novel by John Green. That book will probably be next of John’s creations to be adapted to the big screen and I believe that they will use the screenplay by Neustadter and Weber because they did an even more amazing job with Paper Towns than with TFIOS. The dialogue was funny and not full of cliches, all the characters were well developed and had moments to shine and the overall message of the film was conveyed very subtly but clearly.

Connection to my personal life

The reason, why I feel connected to this story, is because I relate to all of the characters. I have always been Q – the calm and collected one with a clear life goal and a plan. But I got tired of being predictable and I have always wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Basically, I wanted to be Margo. So, I really hope that my decision to move halfway across the continent after I turn 18 will be a Margo-esc thing to do. You have to get lost, to find yourself, right?

The quote from the book ‘The Town Was Paper But The Memories Were Not’ is also very near and dear to my heart. The people that I have encountered in my life so far have mostly been very ordinary. All of them are happy with their day-to-day life and there is nothing wrong with that. I just want more and I don’t really know what more is yet, but I’m prepared to find out. However, the part of the quote “but the memories were not” to me means that there were a few extraordinary moments in my simple life that were and still are invaluable. I’m ready to leave my paper life but I will always keep the memories.

While watching the film, I’ve also realized that I’m Radar in my group of friends. I am usually the rational one who plans everything, is worried about school, and is scared of breaking the rules. I also have a friend who is as thirsty and funny as Ben. Lastly, my best friend is the Q of our group – she would definitely travel 2000 km for the love of her life.

Acting

  • Nat Wolff as Quentin “Q” did an amazing job. He was so likable and adorable. Furthermore, I highly enjoyed the fact that this film swapped the gender roles and a guy, played by Wolff, was the one chasing after a girl and not the other way around. Nat played a hopeless romantic who learned his lesson perfectly and I really hope that his career will get a boost after this film.
  • Austin Abrams as Ben was a complete scene-stealer like Michael Pena in Ant-man (review of that film). His comedic timing was amazing and his jokes weren’t cliche at all. Even the pee joke worked well and pee jokes never impress me.
  • Justice Smith as Marcus “Radar” was a really cool character too that, as I have mentioned before, represented me completely. And those Black Santas looked amazing – I was really worried that they would cut that part of the film because it’s too weird but I’m so happy that they didn’t. Now I definitely need a Black Santa statue. Is there an official merchandise site that I could get one on? Maybe the DFTBA store will have some.

Also, I really loved how nerdy all the 3 guys were . The Pokemon song and the Valar Morghulis shout-out with a beer sword were amazing.

  • Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman was wonderful and the best casting choice in ..like.. ever. True, she wasn’t in a film much but she was extremely charming in a few scenes she had. This was probably the most successful transition from modeling to acting, I have ever seen. But then again, I’ve always felt that Cara was more than a model. She is a superstar in her own right. However, I might be making the same mistake as Q did, imagining her in a way I think she should be. I guess we will never know if I’m right or mistaken unless I meet her one day, which is unlikely.
  • Halston Sage as Lacey was also a nice addition to the cast. I really liked the idea that her character presented – a pretty girl can be smart too. The outside doesn’t always reflect what is on the inside.
  • Jaz Sinclair as Angela was also an original and well-developed character. I really liked the fact that she is a fan of Ed Sheeran. (I am also a fan – proof). Moreover, I liked how they included her in the final act of the film because she wasn’t a part of the road trip in the book.

Margo’s little sister played by Meg Crosbie was also really great in a few scenes she had. She definitely knew how to profit from her sister’s disappearance.

Spoilers!!

  • Ansel Elgort had a short cameo in the film as a cashier. I hope that his cameo will start a trend and we will get to see an actor from this adaptation in the next film based on a novel by Green. Maybe Cara Delevingne will be one of the students in the boarding school in Looking for Alaska?

Story ideas

The book and the movie both succeed in portraying the following ideas:

  1. Never fall in love with an imaginary person (reminds me of The Great Gatsby, don’t you think?)
  2. Enjoy the little things in life and be smart enough to spot them.
  3. Never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.
  4. Don’t be afraid to jump higher and to run faster – leave your comfort zone.
  5. Try to reach your goal no matter what and if you have no goal or no plan – don’t be scared to look for them.

The premise of the film and the whole concept of the Paper Town is also very interesting and extremely clever. Huge props to John Green, who found such a different idea to base his book on.

Soundtrack

All of the young adult films have amazing soundtracks and this one is no exception. My favorite song is the one from the trailer – To the Top by Twin Shadow (listen on YouTube). Falling by HAIM was also really nice (listen here). Lastly, the song which I don’t think was in the actual film but was featured in the trailer – Smile by Mikky Ekko – is also one of my favorite songs of all time (find it on YouTube).

All in all, even if you are a not a target demographic of this film or if you have never heard anything about John Green and his previous work (if you have never heard about TFIOS, have you been living under a rock?), you still should see this film. It’s a refreshing and realistic love story, which has a deeper meaning and isn’t just another teen flick. It didn’t earn as much money during its opening weekend as TFIOS did, but I believe that it will be a sleeper-hit.

Rate: 5/5 (how else could I rate it?)

Trailer: Paper Towns trailer

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