Romantic teen comedies deal with similar tropes – the awkward crush, the grand declarations of love, the out-of-place dance sequence. Love, Simon hits all those notes, with the only difference being that the central character is gay. While there are ways that the film pushes the confines of the adolescent angst usually found in these films, it still bears the same mediocrities that limits its heterosexual counterparts as well.
Nick Robinson is Simon Spier, a closeted gay kid who gets a crush on another classmate he connects with online. As he deals with the usual parties and problems with his friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), he is also trying to figure out the real-life person behind his online crush, dubbed Blue. Simon has a sweet and functional family with his high-school sweethearts parents (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel) and a precocious chef sister (Talitha Bateman). When a classmate discovers his secret, he blackmails Simon and the drama unfolds from there.
Robinson is a strong central figure and some of the issues Simon faces are definitely new and engaging territory. He does a great job of keeping everything grounded, and even when he’s being a jerk he still evokes sympathy. In her all-too-brief appearance, Garner has the best moment and really demonstrates how underutilized she’s been. Duhamel also does a good job. Tony Hale as the vice-principal at Simon’s school and Natasha Rothwell as his theater teacher provide ample comic relief.
There are some great moments throughout. And even the out-of-place dance sequence works. The shifting identities of Blue, as Simon tries to figure out who he is and the culmination of their relationship is a bit too pat. But the powerful moments definitely outweigh the weaker ones. The supporting characters aren’t given a tremendous amount to do, but they all feel like fully-realized characters even if they don’t always operate that way.
The minor weaknesses aside, the film is funny, charming, heavy and thoughtful and whether that’s because of or regardless of the main character’s sexuality is enjoyably irrelevant. Simon’s gayness is both incidental and completely vital, and that’s certainly refreshing.
My Grade – B