Meet Simon (Robinson). Like most high school seniors he keeps himself busy, hanging out with his friends, going to parties and getting ready to graduate. But Simon has a secret. He’s gay.
A coming of age story with a twist, “Love, Simon” is the story of a young man at the crossroads of his life. Citing an unusual series of dreams about Daniel Radcliffe in his early teens as the turning point in his sexuality, Simon comes across an online post by a young man who calls himself Blue. Blue is also gay and longs to come out but does not have the courage. Simon emails Blue and explains that he, too, is in the same boat. He signs his note “Jacques,” and the two begin a series of conversations that grow both bolder and emotional as they go on. However, a fellow student named Martin (Logan Miller) comes across the missives and informs Simon that he knows his secret. He also blackmails him, trying to arrange a hook-up with one of Simon’s female friends. If Simon doesn’t help him, he’ll spill the beans. Sadly the kid is beyond unlikable and soon, after an embarrassing attempt at wooing his intended, he outs Simon to the school. What a dick!
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this film. I commend it for being one of the few mainstream films to deal with gay issues in a matter of fact way. “Love, Simon” is simply a love story about a young man with a crush that happens to be another young man. But the film also sends up the typical Hollywood stereotypes I didn’t expect.
Part of Simon’s fear stems from the fact that there is already a gay student in his class (Clark Moore). Sadly, this young man is a sassy, well-groomed confidant of the school’s snobby girls, dishing out fashion advice and one-liners. Sadly, the typical “gay” character from Central Casting, the same people that brought you Lamar from “Revenge of the Nerds.” I have several gay friends. None of them is, if stereotypes are to be believed, “obvious.” It’s a shame this is the only way Hollywood can find to portray an openly gay character. To me it’s a double shame because the film’s director, Greg Berlanti, is gay and should know better.
Between being outed and then bullied, nobody is held accountable. The most believable character in the film is Natasha Rothwell, who plays Ms. Albright, the school drama teacher (the school is putting on a production of “Cabaret,” which, though I’ve learned has been put on in high schools, doesn’t strike me as a show to be performed by teenagers). When two boys bully Simon in the lunchroom, it is Ms. Albright that confronts them and assures them that this action will not be tolerated. So it’s disheartening to see the two boys a few moments later being excused for their actions by offering Simon a mumbled “sorry.” And Martin, who for some reason is playing the Emcee (badly) in the production of “Cabaret,” continues to be the class clown, again not facing any consequences for his actions. By the time Simon’s friends, all with petty slights, deserted him I lost all faith in the film or its message.
Which is a shame, because Nick Robinson does a great job trying to balance all of the inner feelings Simon must deal with. He can only smile and nod when his father, commenting on the latest contestant on “The Bachelor,” says “look at him…you know he’s gay.” He knows his father means no harm but still just the way he says “gay” is enough to keep Simon in the closet.
I’ve heard this film described as a “John Hughes” – type film. Barely. Though Hughes did spend a lot of his time writing about teenagers, their problems and how they dealt with them, his characters were a hell of a lot more believable.