This month’s book club pick is Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. A film adaptation titled Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti opened in US cinemas March 16th. It opens in cinemas here in New Zealand March 29th but I saw an advance screening yesterday afternoon.
Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer, Jurassic World, 5th Wave) portrays Simon Spier, an average 17-year-old Atlanta high school senior.
On the surface life is good for Simon. He lives in a nice suburban home. His high-school sweetheart parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are still happily married. He has a good relationship with his little sister Nora (Talitha Bateman, who worked with Robinson on The 5th Wave), and has a good group of friends.
Simon has one secret – he is gay.
When Simon learns that a fellow student, using the pseudonym Blue, has posted anonymously on a school blog that he is gay, he immediately begins exchanging anonymous emails with Blue.
The film has Nick’s soccer teammate Bram (The Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash‘s Keiynan Lonsdale), theatre kid Cal (13 Reasons Why‘s Miles Heizer) and Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails. This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.
Simon’s secret is revealed when he leaves his Gmail account signed in on a school library computer and classmate Martin (Logan Miller) reads one of his emails. Martin uses the secret emails as leverage to blackmail Simon into helping him get a date with Simon’s friend Abby (X-Men Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp).
He is scared that if Martin outs him he will lose Blue, so Simon starts lying and manipulating his friends to help Martin woo Abby. This includes convincing his best friends Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford) and Nick (Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) to date when he learns Nick has a crush on Abby.
This sets up the dramatic tension and conflict for the film.
As it is marketed as a romantic coming-of-age teen comedy there are plenty of laughs with the supporting characters. Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live writer) is brilliant and hilarious as the scene-stealing teacher directing the school production of ‘Cabaret’, which Simon, Abby and Martin are in. Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Veep) also provides plenty of comedy as the awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students. There is also a very funny montage where his heterosexual friends have to come out as straight to their parents.
The film has an amazing soundtrack featuring music from the The Bleachers, Troye Sivan, Whitney Houston, Jackson 5.
Hopefully Love, Simon will pave the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in accessible, major studio-produced cinema.