Love, Simon follows in the footsteps of every other romantic comedy: it is idealistic, mushy, and adorable. Our eponymous protagonist is a (conventionally attractive) high school loser who hasn’t told any of his friends or family that he is gay. As far as coming-out stories go, this one is pretty sanitized. It is not particularly traumatic or sad, but that is probably the best thing about it. Director Greg Berlanti has maintained that he wanted the film to be a coming-out story with a “Hollywood happy ending,” and that’s exactly what we get with Love, Simon.
The good news is that Simon and his friends (Leah, Abby, and Nick) are well-drawn, complex characters who have great chemistry onscreen. Part of the credit is due to the competent acting by the cast and the other is due to the writing. This film is clearly not intended for adult audiences— it is geared towards teenagers. It is the kind of goofy movie you watch with your friends on a Friday night, with bowls of snacks and beers you stole from you stepdad’s mini fridge.
While the teenage characters are relatable and entertaining, the adult characters tend to get lost. The school principal (Tony Hale) is generally funny, though he isn’t much more than a wacky caricature and Simon’s parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are probably the least interesting characters in whole film. As a liberal, not-entirely-woke couple living in 2018, Simon’s parents do and say exactly what you expect. Parents are, and always will be, a crucial part of the coming out narrative, but in a film so focused on Simon’s relationship to his friends, the relationship between Simon and his parents is the part that felt most clichéd.
Another good aspect of the film is how it treats technology. It may seem like a small part of the film, but as we all know, technology is an increasingly important part of all our lives. The use of a “school secrets” blog as the catalyst for the film is very current, though not overused, and the use of cheesy texting graphics was kept to a minimum. A lot of films can be heavy-handed with their inclusion of technology, but thankfully Love, Simon keeps it simple.
Though the major backlash from critics has been that the film is an idealization of an often painful experience, Berlanti’s dedication to the tone of the film is the core of what makes it succeed. Love, Simon is not realistic by any means, but it is certainly a worthy addition to the genre of dorky romantic comedies. ★★★½