Yes, Love, Simon was a really good movie and it shows a massive change in our culture that any mainstream studio would back a mainstream romantic comedy starring a gay guy. I can’t really state that enough, that this movie was so worthwhile to be made. And 2/4 of the main characters as well as the primary love interest were people of color. This movie was a major win and shows that diversity and inclusiveness don’t have to be forsaken to net more at the box office. Oh gosh, here comes the but. Look, it was a good movie. But it could have been a great movie. However, I feel I need to offer some context before I start viciously attacking this rather inoffensive movie. In principle, I am not against book to film adaptations taking creative liberties to distance themselves from the source material. It makes the films more interesting, especially for those who have already read the book, and is almost a necessity when taking a work of fiction from the page to the big screen. My favorite movie, Call Me By Your Name, is actually a book to film adaption and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. I haven’t read the book but others that have say that the movie remained very close to the source material but still took initiative and made many creative decisions that significantly enhance the film and elevate it to an all-time classic that I love, A LOT. And that’s the thing, all the changes that were made to the plot contributed something that feels like Andre Aciman could have written it himself. Nothing felt out of place or detracted from the original narrative.
Yes, that brings us to Love, Simon. For those who are unaware, the movie was actually based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015) by Becky Albertelli (and yes, the movie’s name is a lot better). Another thing, I’m a sucker for relatively mindless books detailing teen/young adult romance. It may shock you that such a refined person like myself would delve into that realm of fiction, but there you have it. Most of them are pretty mediocre, and overall are very forgettable and do not offer anything of substance from a literary perspective nor do they depict what is accurate or typical in actual romantic relationships. Love is amongst the most potent human emotions, so it makes sense why there are about a million goddamn songs, books, and movies about it. Yet so rarely do any of them attempt to display romance that is realistic or impactful. It’s almost as if, now this may shock you, creators tend to offer a romanticized view of romance to sell more shit to very jaded people who don’t believe in the notion of love, or who have been broken up with recently. Rarer still is a love story that attempts to present a compelling narrative alongside the primary plotline depicting a romance. This is something that can be done a lot more easily in books than in movies because an author has a lot more space to work with than a screenwriter who only has around two hours at the most. There is a minimum amount of shared screentime and flirting an onscreen couple must have to make their romance seem plausible to an audience, and it is generally a good idea to try to exceed this if possible or craft your story in a way that half of your movie isn’t romantic walks around the park. Because, honestly, if that’s what the film is it really isn’t presenting anything new or anything of substance.
For clarity’s sake lets just establish and summarize the plot of the original book, for those of us who haven’t read it or only saw the movie. You should though. Go do that. Spoilers incoming. So go watch it. Have you? Okay good. Simon Spier is a closeted junior in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He has two sisters, Alice, and Nora, and a close relationship with his parents. Most of his life centers around his best friend, Nick, and his two other close friends Leah and Abby, both of whom have a thing for Nick. All is constant for the closeted theater kid. He makes a post on his high school’s anonymous Tumblr page about the negative feelings he experiences being gay and closeted. Shockingly, another closeted gay from his high school likes the post and Simon sends him an email and they bond over their mutual homosexuality under pseudonyms. The two go on to exchange emails throughout the entire book. This mysterious pen pal is named Blue, and one of Simon’s main goals is to uncover the identity of his mysterious fellow gay (so they can collectively do gay shit together) because Blue is wary of exchanging their actual identities. But unfortunately for Simon, he forgets to sign out of his computer and class clown Martin takes pictures of the homosexual emails exchanged between the two. Martin threatens to out Simon unless Simon can help get Abby to want to date Martin. This is impossible as ultimately Abby has her sights set on Nick, but Simon tries anyway. When it blows up in his face, Martin leaks the emails on the school Tumblr and soon everyone knows that Simon is a sword swallower. His friends rally to his side in the difficult time but are upset when Simon’s manipulation with Abby and Martin comes to light. They ultimately forgive him, and Simon is distraught that his relationship with his secret gay pen pal will be ended. So, Simon reveals his true identity and tells Blue to meet him at the fair before it closes. Of course they do, and the two meet and as it turns out Blue’s real name was Abraham, or Bram as everyone calls him, who sat at Simon’s lunch table. Obviously, they kiss, and the story ends on a pretty happy note. I simplified a lot of the nuance that makes the story really good, but for broad strokes purposes, we’re on the same page.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a young adult fiction story that manages to accomplish telling a wonderful love story and still manages to retain a degree of plot independent from that love story. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, it may not be Gone With the Wind but it presents romance and high school life in a way that is realistic and enjoyable for the reader. Long story short, the book is really great and hits well above its weight class in a genre that is saturated with a lot of bland primal love stories about people you don’t care about. So let’s go to the movie. The movie was good. Why the disparity? Well, a lot of reasons. I know, you’re probably saying “Oh Patrick, the books are always better just shut up this movie was really good!” And you would be right, the book is almost always better. By nature, it is challenging to distill a 300-page novel into a two-hour movie. This is nearly always the case, fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson can simultaneously lament that their cherished works of fiction were not adequately relayed into the cinemas. I hate to be the guy asking like a million questions, so let’s give some answers. The reason that Love, Simon was not as good as the book can be pinpointed down to a variety of different factors. Yes, some of my complaints would take substantial rewriting and a lot more thought. But some of these are INCREDIBLY simple things that were done which, in my opinion, detract from the strength of the narrative and the quality of the movie. I’ve rambled enough about cinema, let me stop showing and start telling everything I took issue within Love, Simon.
Underdevelopment of Simon’s family
This is a relatively simple one and one that could probably be pegged as a simple casualty of the adaptation. But I don’t accept that excuse. Everything on this list is a change that is, in my opinion, either severely contradictory with the plot and spirit of Albertelli’s original book or does not improve the quality of the film at all, some even reducing it. In the book, Simon was very close with all of his family, he’s from the South for godsakes. The land of good old boys, exhaustive heat, and families that just seem to like each other a little more. The movie downplays this a lot, even entirely omitting his older sister and giving his younger sister like two whole lines. This was especially shocking as his sister is a major character in the book! None of her compelling character arcs were even remotely relayed into the movie and I think the story overall suffers for it. At the time of the story when Simon seems like he has no one else in the world, his sister was there for him, and it felt meaningful because she was a multifaceted and interesting person. That same scene in the movie does not carry anywhere near the same emotional weight because Simon’s sister does not have any meaningful personality at all. Again, kinda minor, but a lack of development of Simon’s personal life leads to a decreased amount of caring for him and the situation that he’s in.
Martin has no redeeming qualities whatsoever
Martin is the classic villain in any high school movie, and at his core, he is supposed to be somewhat dislikable. After all, he’s blackmailing our hero and threatening to out him to the world. Simon’s confrontation with Martin is where the movie chooses to utilize their one f-bomb. For those of you who don’t know, a PG-13 movie can actually say “fuck” one time, but no more, and not in a sexual context. A fun little game I like to play when watching PG-13 movies is to see when and how the f-bomb is used and then critique its effectiveness. A screenwriter trying to get a PG-13 rating essentially has one nuke to drop wherever they want. Love, Simon had a top-tier usage, but other films like Mission Impossible seem to not put much thought into it. Anyway, keep an eye out the next time you’re watching. There are several aspects you need to keep in mind to write a believable antagonist, and the book does it pretty well. Martin comes across as very likable and fun to be around when he is not manipulating Simon. Simon himself even finds himself becoming friends (sort of) with Martin as getting Abby to like him more involved them hanging out together. The point is, Martin was supposed to be someone who audiences should have found vaguely likable or understood his motivations.
From watching the movie, Martin comes across as a huge dick with no motivations whatsoever to be a dick besides being a thirsty little thottie. So any villain in any other high school movie, basically. And honestly, that’s just a waste of potential both from the actor and from a writing standpoint. Because in the book he had motivations! He wasn’t this bland, unfunny, scum of a person. In fact, his brother had recently come out a few years ago, and his parents’ reaction had been a touch extreme. Marching in pride parades, political activism, just things that even Martin’s brother found to be a bit much. His own various personal inadequacies, being liked but not truly loved by anyone, in addition to his various unconscious biases, all manifested in a blackmailing and subsequent outing that were heinous, and that much is true. But in reading the book, the character of Martin is more complete, more rational, and elicits a lot more sympathy. Just going off the movie, Simon has no reason whatsoever to forgive Martin. You could argue the same is true in the books, but the reasoning and rationale exist much more clearly for Martin’s actions. And again, this makes all the conflicts with Martin and the whole climax have a lot less weight and meaning when his perspective is not fully explored. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be cut out when bringing a book to the big screen. Martin Addison’s personal story should not have been one of them. By severely neutering Martin’s character the film is reduced to having a typical teen movie bad guy as opposed to the multifaceted realistic antagonist seen in the original story.
Cutting Abby’s origin story
Another rather short one here that I can understand the reasoning to why it was cut but really just rubs me the wrong way. Simon’s primary friend group revolves around himself and three others: Nick, Leah, and Abby. They have other friends, sure, but the bulk of the development in the books and indeed in the movie involves these four. Abby is new to the school and actually lives an hour away from where everyone goes to high school. But not in the movie. The fact that Abby lives in the inner city and has a background filled with relative instability is completely changed in the film. And I know why they did it. Because the screenwriters wanted to have Simon getting coffee. Now I know that sounds stupid, but at three different points of the movie, Simon is shown getting coffee on the way to school. In the beginning, he and his three friends ordered four coffees, and we get an overhead shot of the paper drink holder thing Starbucks gives you when you order a couple drinks. After the drama with his friends, we see the same exact shot but this time with only a single coffee. And at the end, before we know for sure that Blue and Simon are dating, we see the overhead shot with five (five!) coffees. I’ll be the first to admit this is a cute shot and a pretty clever way of demonstrating the ebb and flow of Simon’s social life. It’s just dishonest, and it does cheapen the friendship Abby experiences with the other three. It’s a minor thing, but could have been remedied with a simple 30-second scene and still gotten the cute coffee shot. Maybe Abby’s bus only drops her off so far, so Simon drives her the rest of the way. Literally took ten seconds to come up with a way to maintain Abby’s authentic origin story and the fact that she is different from everyone else, not unlike Simon. Due to circumstances outside of her control, she feels an innate distance with others, and none of this is expressed at all when you cut character’s identities to more easily get a shot of them buying Starbucks.
Changing the school play that Simon was in for absolutely no discernible reason
Most of the changes I can understand the logic even if I don’t agree with it. This, I just don’t really know why they changed at all. It seems passive aggressive to honest, God-fearing, Americans like myself who read the book before seeing the movie (unless it’s mandatory reading for an English class). In the book, Simon is in a production of the musical Oliver! which is based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist. It’s also coincidently the name of the older man in Call Me By Your Name. But the actual Oliver actually calls Elio by his own name, Oliver. Sound confusing? It is, let’s just move on. The film just changes it to the musical Cabaret. Why? It’s not like Cabaret is even understood by that much more of the viewing audience. If they wanted to change it to a mainstream musical, there are about a dozen others I would’ve picked before frickin’ Cabaret. Did they not have the rights or something? It’s from 1960, I can’t imagine it’s that difficult.
“I’d like to dispel the myth that Patrick doesn’t know what he’s doing, he knows exactly what he’s doing.”
-US Senator Marco Rubio
I realize that trashing the decisions made by a movie might lead one to believe I would have hated any change to the plot of the book, regardless of what it was. Not true at all. There are a bunch of decisions that were made by the screenwriters that I think improve the movie and contribute to the original spirit of the book. Firstly, including Buster from Arrested Development as the dorky school principal was a good choice. He is absolutely hilarious, and the scenes that he’s in are very funny. And it’s kinda sweet when he replaces his trademark American flag lapel pin with a rainbow flag when the entire school finds out about Simon’s homosexuality. It was also a good decision to change Simon’s theater teacher to be a lot more bombastic and genuinely take no nonsense. Love, Simon can be a really, truly funny movie at a lot of points and the changes made to Ms. Albright certainly help that. And they’re not out of character. It is not without reason that the character described in the books would do actions like the same one in the movie.
The original narrative isn’t perfect, and it isn’t gospel, increased levity really did benefit the film and plot as a whole. Martin’s reasoning for outing Simon is also slightly different. During the homecoming football game, Martin wears the mascot’s costume and asks out Abby in front of the entire school. She walks up to him on the field and politely declines him in front of everyone. This dominates the school’s social media, including the Tumblr. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Martin outs Simon in an attempt to stop being the center of the school’s collective mocking. I’d argue that this scene is very well done and ultimately consistent with the world established by Albertelli. I like it a lot actually, it’s very funny and the homecoming environment is very quintessentially high school. It’s a positive change. Even the cute coffee scenes I talked about earlier weren’t in the original story, and I really like those shots, kudos to the guy that thought of that. And the plot with Simon helping his dad with the anniversary gift was another thing absent, but I’ll touch on that more in a second. I’m sure there were many more slight inconsistencies between the two stories, but none of them glared out to me. Look, I’m not some evil purist who gets pissy when lines aren’t verbatim recitations of the original work. What I looked for was can the screenwriters deliver a rendering of the narrative, mostly intact, on the big screen in a way that is faithful to the original. Hence the length of this blog post, there are just a lot of ways that I feel this film could have done that better.
Simon’s relationship with his dad
This one grinds my goat quite a lot because it was just a weak ass decision and it pisses me off. Book Simon has a really good relationship with both of his parents, that much is indisputable. I’d argue in the movie he is even closer with his dad because there is an entire subplot where Simon helps his dad create this touching iMovie anniversary present for his mom. After Simon is revealed to be a buggerer, the movie creates the most fucking contrived conflict between a teenager and a parent I’ve ever seen. It is implied that they don’t talk for an extended period of time. Like, at least a couple weeks. Funnily enough, it reminds me of another scene from Call Me By Your Name when Elio and Oliver are ignoring each other a little after having sex, but it’s very awkward because they live in adjacent rooms in the same house. At any rate, it’s stupid.
To have the audience believe that his father in ANY WAY, EVER, disapproved of Simon for being who he was is entirely false. Nothing remotely similar to this happened in the books. What happened was a father having real difficulty with coming to terms with the fact that his son felt afraid to honestly express his sexuality and innate personality, and that he didn’t perceive any of it earlier. That included the various processing that happens whenever anyone finds out someone very close to them was withholding something that caused them a fair amount of distress. The movie portrays the father as a homophobic asshole who eventually has a change of heart, which is dishonest to the narrative and doesn’t happen in real life. Generally, if a parent refuses to speak to their gay child for weeks it will not end with a heartwarming moment and a reconciliation. It is not realistic, it is not faithful to the original narrative, and it was a lazy attempt to dumb things down for an audience that can handle complex ideas. No one asked for cheap thrills and REAL PEOPLE DO NOT ACT LIKE THIS. Ugh. I will admit the actor they picked to play his dad is quite charming, props to the casting department. Seriously though, the book got this right, why change it?
The Ferris Wheel scene
My critiquing is a little nuanced in this scene. Nuance from your friendly neighborhood Patrick? It’s more likely than you think. Actually, nuance is probably the wrong word because this complaint is honestly just only slightly more complicated than the rest of the rather straightforward grievances in the list. The movie frames the climax of the story at a carnival, the same as the book. The difference being, whereas in the book it was a relatively quiet and private affair the movie makes it a spectacle that the entire school is watching. Everyone from the one LGBT student to the hot captain of the soccer team crowds around a Ferris Wheel as Simon climbs into an empty seat, handing the carny a wad of money. Prior to that, Simon had made a post on the Tumblr urging Blue to meet him there before it closed. Unfortunately, the crowd thins as time passes and Blue remains absent.
Now I’ll pose a question unfamiliar to the realm of cinema and more like something you would see on a quiz judging economic literacy: what is the bottleneck resource of this situation? What is the actual limiting factor that is causing tension to the scene? Most of you are probably thinking, well the park is gonna close at some point. Or maybe Simon will eventually get tired of endlessly riding the Ferris Wheel alone and leave. Good guesses, but you would be wrong on both count. As a matter of fact, the movie tries to make me fucking believe that the tension in this scene is that Simon will run out of tickets. Are you kidding? Like, is this a joke? The tension exists in the movie, and to a much lesser extent in the book because we don’t know if Blue is actually going to show up. In theory anyway. In practice, this is a romantic story aimed at young adults so of-freaking-course he’s gonna show up. But this movie actually has the nerve to try to have us believe that not only should we be concerned that Blue isn’t showing up, but that he isn’t prompt enough. And that Simon will run out of tickets if he doesn’t hurry his ass up. Which, first of all, is a total lie. While the crowd does eventually thin out, you’re honestly trying to get us to believe that not a single person in that crowd has more tickets to supply him until the close of the carnival? No. Just no. Remember how I said Martin wasn’t redeemable at all in the movie? Well, the one attempt the movie tries to make his character more sympathetic is here, when he offers Simon a couple tickets at the Ferris Wheel. Too little, too late movie. I don’t buy the fact that there is now an artificial constraint on the timeline because you have suddenly decided there should be one, and that no one else in the entire freaking crowd could provide him with more tickets. Or hell, that he couldn’t even go out and leave for two minutes and buy more himself. It’s stupid.
But okay, do it so that the gays can have their cliche kissing at the top of the Ferris Wheel thing to the literal cheers of a crowd. Speaking as someone who has posted relationship pictures on Instagram, I can at least say the cheering is not an exaggeration. I guess after being treated like shit by Western society for the past 1500 years does tend to promote some heavy-handed attempts at reconciliation. Still, why did you have to even bring up tickets at all? It just cheapens a scene which, while not that emotionally complex, certainly didn’t need another cliche piled on top of it. I could take this moment to talk about how this scene was done more tactfully and probably better in the book, but I’ll give the movie some levity here. Overall, the film has made a point to be a lot louder and more over the top with its portrayal of the narrative which I don’t really take issue with because, again, no risk, no reward. Just make sure the risks you take make sense and aren’t just taking a piss with the original book for no explicable reason.
Changing the love dynamic of Simon’s friend group
These next three are pretty significant issues with the story, I’ll just be honest. The writers massively dropped the ball here. This is some Macy’s Day New Year’s Eve type ball droppings. Freddie from iCarly in the third season type of ball droppings (seriously his voice got so much deeper). Dynamics within Simon’s friend group are very simple yet very complicated, and they are very high school. Yes Gen X’ers, this is how millennials interact with each other in the age of snapchat. Simon, Nick, and Leah were all best friends for years. A long time. Abby comes in and becomes close with Nick and Simon and enters the pack. She takes a liking to Nick, who is a catch, but alas, Leah has had a thing for Nick for like seventy years. But he doesn’t know. So there’s tension there. But the bottom line- Leah and Abby like the same guy. That is a fact. That is the inevitability, and that is the reason for their conflict and the whole reason it’s a big deal that Simon blackmailed Abby into trying to date Martin. By distracting Abby from Nick, Simon was perceived (not entirely without cause) to be trying to manipulate other people’s emotions and romantic urges for his own benefit. If the weirdo and the newbie start dating, Nick and Leah are free to date despite the fact that he’s just not that into Leah. He was essentially outed as trying to act as Littlefinger. And just like the poor Lord of the Vale, he must pay for his actions.
At least in the book. All this goes out the GODDAMN WINDOW in the movie. No, because of the draaaammmma we can get by having Leah like the closeted gay let’s just make her have a crush on him! That also has the pleasant side effect of not having the friends torn apart by internal romantic divisions, because Leah can just go be a crazy cat lady and not be jealous that Nick is dating someone else. Boy, I wish romantic drama could just be rewritten so that the overarching narratives of our lives aren’t awful and don’t have unsatisfactory endings. As it turns out, this is impossible unless you are Kurt Vonnegut who wrote yourself into your own book as the god of the universe. Breakfast of Champions is a weird book, but a good book nevertheless. So yeah, the movie just conveniently changes who likes who for its own benefit, ironically the same thing Simon tried to do and does so to generate a more satisfactory resolution. If that was the goal, congratulations, that is a huge accomplishment in the game of Big Brother. And it is a goal that was achieved. But if the goal was to create a realistic portrayal of high schoolers, or hell, even of people, then you have fallen short. Look, high school is full of petty bullshit and drama like this that won’t matter an iota in twenty years. At the time though, all these emotions and hormones run through a person’s head, and everything feels like the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to you. As much as Simon is discovering out who he loves for the first time, so is everyone else. Just because you happen to like the genitals that society says you should don’t make it easy, nothing about romance, especially in adolescence, is easy. So why get rid of this? Why downplay an interesting plotline, one that accurately depicts real things that real people go through, just to give another cliche happy fucking ending? That’s weak.
Simon’s friends are total assholes!
Yep, that they are. This issue goes beyond incorporating another simple cliche into a romantic comedy, a genre which is generally prone to that sort of thing. No, how Simon’s friends are characterized not only differs from the book but creates a serious gap between what audiences should think and what they actually will end up thinking. I’m not talking about some mind control shit, but generally, someone reading or watching this story should like Simon’s friends. That gap comes to this fact- movie Simon has some bitch ass friends. Let’s talk book for a bit. It becomes quite clear early on that Simon intends to set up Abby and Martin, eventually pissing off all three of his friends. They are hurt, they are offended, and most of all they are confused. Why would Simon do this? This is so unlike our friend who we’ve all known for so long and love. It is at this point, more or less, that his friends leave him or at least take a break while they process this betrayal. And they are very justified, and their motivations are very understandable and well defined. But as soon as they realize the reasons for what Simon did, they are immediately sympathetic, and while they don’t just outright forgive him, they immediately rally to his side. Because he has just been outed by someone who was blackmailing him. I’m sorry, only a complete and utter bastard would not forgive their friend for doing this. Friendship is feast and famine. That is what a true friend will do, it is sticking with someone regardless of the perils you both go through.
Not only was your friend struggling with his sexuality, but he was also struggling with the potential of being outed by someone and completely exposed. And y’all live in the fucking South! Atlanta was literally burned by General Tecumseh Sherman because they wanted to own slaves. Less than 150 years ago. And about 50 years ago, black people couldn’t shit in a toilet that a white person shat at. They still can’t shit in the same toilet with a white person (I’m referring to the stigma surrounding interracial relationships, that, while it has gotten better, still exists). Should I mention the long history of promoted minority rights in the South? Oh, there really isn’t anything there? Long story short this world, and especially the South is not the most welcoming or tolerant place. Point being- coming out is scary and sometimes dangerous. Simon is lucky that he lives in a somewhat tolerant (tolerance is relative, while people call you a faggot and won’t let you adopt children at least you aren’t being stoned to death) environment where he is not placed in imminent physical danger after everyone knows he’s gay. His parents are accepting, and most of his friends are cool with it. But after he comes out, he immediately starts getting shit from a bunch of people at his school. And those are just the people brazen enough to mock him to his face. How many sit there in the cafeteria as he is berated with insults, silently letting it transpire, or even worse, silently agreeing? Is there even that much of a difference? Even amongst those considered to be allies and friends, how many of them perceive him differently despite him not being a truly different person than he has always been? That is A LOT for someone to deal with, and that is something he would have to deal with regardless of when he chose to come out. So imagine how scary the prospect of having to deal with this before you are ready is. Imagine the lengths a person would go to conceal this information, at any cost. Even if that cost could result in you hurting the people you’ve cared about for years. Notice how it becomes a lot easier to forgive someone for doing something that in most circumstances would be a huge dick move when the context is expanded and pondered? Simon’s book friends realize this. When Simon is outed by Martin, in the book for receiving a hug from Abby leading Martin to think Simon is trying to render him an humiliated jester, the true reasons for Simon’s betrayal come to light. Nick, Abby, and Leah all realize that while their initial responses may have been justified given what they knew at the time, being there for Simon is the most vulnerable moment in his life is worth setting aside his rather large transgression, for the time being. A dialogue is to be had, sure, and discuss what truly went on with the blackmail and romantic manipulation, but the number one priority is being there for your fucking friend because he just got outed in fucking Georgia. In high school. I believe that Simon is an inherently good person who did some scummy things to protect himself and his secret. There’s an old adage, we judge others by their actions but ourselves by our intentions. In the book, Simon’s friends fall guilty to that. After looking at Simon’s intentions and realizing his dire circumstances, they forgive him, and their bond of friendship is strengthened. Because they forgive Simon, both Simon and the reader have incentive and reasoning to forgive them for previously abandoning Simon as well as reasoning to believe they too are good people and great friends.
Guess what happens in the movie? None of fucking that, that’s for sure. In fact, not only is there no real satisfying dialogue between Simon and his friends about what he had to do and why he did it they literally abandon him after he’s outed. They look at their best fucking friend, who has been outed on fucking TUMBLR of all places, and think haha sucks for that loser he shouldn’t have messed with us. Jesus Christ. It was so awful to the point where I was actually slightly angry that they were there at the end at the Ferris Wheel. Hot soccer captain guy had more of a right to be there than you bonafide cunts (I know his name, by the way, it’s Garrett. I call him hot soccer guy to add comedic levity). It’s been a bit since I’ve seen the movie, but the moment where they forgive him and re-enter his life is extremely close to the end of the film. This one is clear-cut. Book Simon’s friends act like real people and have a satisfactory relationship with Simon, and when they become his friend again I feel happy and glad for all of them! Movie Simon’s friends do not act in a way that makes sense, that is consistent with their characters, or that promotes a good narrative. When they cheer for him at the final scene, I hope they all just drop dead because they were absolutely awful friends who abandoned Simon in his time of need. Why would you write these characters like this, just why?
The change from junior year to senior year
Last one, and it’s a big one. Honestly, I can’t even find a reason. All of these previous changes, I can take a guess as to why they were done, and sometimes the reasons can make sense. This, this is honestly fucking unforgivable. And this one won’t require a lot of backstory, but it will involve a lot of firey complaints. In the book, Simon is in junior year. In the movie, Simon is in his senior year. Initially, it seems like a relatively innocuous change, just one of those random changes that most people won’t even notice. Doesn’t make that much of a difference, right? Dead. Fucking. Wrong. It makes a WORLD of difference. Because I’m sure my blog is very popular with those whom age has divorced from the intensity of high school, you might think that the year probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. I’m surely exaggerating. Let me try to put this in perspective, and this is a perspective oft forgotten by older people. Everything, I mean everything, is more intense for a younger person than someone who has more age and wisdom. Even statistically. A year for a 16-year-old is 1/16 of their life, or 6.25% of their total lifespan thus far. For a 50-year-old, that same year represents 1/50 of their life to date or just 2%. That same year has over three times the relative impact for the 16-year-old than the 50-year-old. So while something like a breakup could seem reasonably immaterial to a parent, the emotions that you would feel if you were in that situation are being multiplied by three in the hormonal and messed up teenage brain of their child. Or maybe it’s something like dog years, where the death of a year-long relationship would have the same emotional weight to the parent as a relationship of three years. And imagine experiencing things like that for the first time ever, having absolutely no precedent. Something teenagers lack very much is foresight, and that’s just for a developmental perspective as well as a lack of experience perspective. To total that, everything a young adult faces is multiplied by a factor of three, they often have no prior experience, and future developments are often mired with great uncertainty. Is saying it makes a world of difference a minor exaggeration? Probably. But it’s not that far from reality. My purpose in establishing this is all to properly display sufficient gravity for this next part and to display that in coming out Simon is at risk of facing severe consequences.
Consequences? Well, of course he will dumbass, you’re probably saying. Minor aside, this review has been increasingly laden with profanity as I’ve written it which I feel should serve as demonstrative proof both for my love of cinema and my love of reading. Film studios please hire me, please. Thank you. I have good ideas or at least okay ideas expressed somewhat artfully and somewhat bluntly in a very angsty millennial style. I’m sure I could get a bunch of statistics like about how many LGBTQ+ individuals are abandoned by their parents or experience discrimination from those who previously were supposed to have their back. Or like how suicide attempt statistics are a lot higher for those who don’t conform to the sexual standard of “Opposites Attract” as established by Paula Abdul in 1988 (or Adam and Eve, take your pick). I bet you probably didn’t think you’d hear the breakout hit from singer Paula Abdul and the increased likelihood for gay teens to try to commit suicide in the same sentence. Ugh, my love for obscure pop cultural references and comedy has diluted my point, I’m just like any late-night political comedy show. Yes, outed gays are more likely to experience a myriad of mental illnesses, and that can even end up in the ultimate tragedy of suicide. There’s also what you can call “open bigotry” which is like how if Simon and Bram ever held hands in public odds are within ten minutes local passerby will call them faggots, if not do something worse. Or how he was immediately harassed upon he came back to school after being outed. And then there’s the “soft bigotry” which is all the shit that happens a lot and gay people just have to deal with. Like all the girls who are suddenly a lot more friendly after learning you’re into dudes as if that magically makes you “best friend material.” Or all the times when someone will say “oh you just haven’t met the right girl yet” or “so which one of you is the woman.” Some of it can just be brushed off, some of it is incredibly annoying. Oh and he could just be murdered because hate crimes have been on the rise since Trump was elected.
Look, I like many Northerners am somewhat interested in the mystique of the South and their vastly different lifestyle compared to us hardened Northern Yankees. Barbeque and no snow sounds pretty dope. But let’s talk about bigotry. Y’all have it incredibly bad. Like black people and white people went to different schools in the 1980s legally bad. Like I bet if you took a random poll I’d say about half have the word faggot randomly interspersed in their vocabulary bad. And being gay in the South, I wouldn’t really be interested in that. I’m sure Simon knows this too and wasn’t exactly too excited when he started to be aroused by Harry Potter and went through puberty in a land where the largest building in most towns happens to be the Baptist Church. That’s another thing, the South still hasn’t really gotten the memo from the rest of the West that the new cool thing to do is to lose faith in organized religion. While Jesus himself preached the doctrine of “Love thy neighbor” and I personally believe loves all equally regardless of how they were created (after all I’m pretty sure his dad was the one responsible for that) many doctrines and followers of Christianity are staunchly against homosexuality. Not every Christian hates homosexuality, but most of the most bigots tend to cite Christianity as justification for their beliefs. No matter how many churches put the little rainbow flag next to their door, the major biases of institutional religion against homosexuality are very much in the mind of people like Simon. ALL OF THIS is the general social attitude surrounding being gay in America, and a lot of it is exemplified by the fact he lives in Georgia.
So I hope you get the picture that being gay for Simon is more than just a simple “hey I like guys now” even if that’s how some people in his life would like him to perceive the situation. Now let’s move on to how this applies to the movie, and him being in high school. By the time of the end of the movie, everyone knows he’s a bit of a homosexual, but it has already been established that the school year is just about over and it’s senior year. After you get that graduation, shit doesn’t matter anymore. You could be the most popular jock or the least popular social pariah after you walk that stage who you were in high school ceases to be relevant moving forward and you can boldly make waves in the workforce or in college. So if you get a quick “hey guys lol I’m gay” two weeks before your senior year ends that decision doesn’t have a lot of long-lasting consequences regarding your high school social life because high school is just about over. Now, if only an author would have written it so a character in his junior year would have to make a decision like coming out, which he would then have to deal with for the remainder of his adolescence. That’d be weird if someone did that. Right?
Except, that’s EXACTLY HOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN. There was absolutely NO REASON to change this. Were you afraid that the audience wouldn’t be able to buy attractive young twenty-somethings playing high school juniors, but seniors were A-OK? Since when has a Hollywood filmmaker ever cared about creating a high school movie with actors who could plausibly be in high school (the exception being Bo Burnham, that movie is excellent). I mean Riverdale? You’re telling me Archie is a high school sophomore.
Nuh-uh. Was it because the filmmakers were literally lethargic and wanted to use a chalkboard with “Days Until Graduation” as a way to show the passage of time? In the shots showing Simon’s chalkboard, there are literally HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS and CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS placed right next to it that shows that time is passing! Why introduce a number to it? Did they think the audience would be too braindead to understand the difference between Junior and Senior year? Get a couple lines about prom for the British or the two homeschooled people watching the movie. Did you want the cliche “walk the stage with a cap and gown” moment to give the narrative some a greater sense of finality? Too fucking bad! You don’t get to change fundamental parts of the story so you can jerk yourself off over how much of a neat little package of a high school movie you’ve created. By making this change, you have fucked the story and shortchanged any emotional impact that this story had. Not like it doesn’t matter, but when the original story had it matter more, why bother changing it? Book Simon had to weigh the fact in that he had another full year in Georgia in his shitty ass high school with every decision he made and the narrative was fundamentally changed by this. Would he have even cared about being blackmailed about his sexuality when he had already been accepted to NYU? Why would he manipulate his friends to maintain a secret that started mattering less and less as the days wound down to graduation? And would Martin have even bothered trying to blackmail Simon to get a girlfriend when it was their fucking senior year? No, no to all these questions. I’d argue the brunt of Simon’s decisions were made out of a lot of fear and uncertainty, and that same amount of fear and uncertainty is at least HALVED if not more when he does not have another year of high school to go after the events of the movie. You have entirely cheapened the motivations and decisions of Simon’s character to eventually own who he was and be unapologetically himself. This one absolutely small and seemingly minor change has completely cascaded and fucked with the narrative and story. After revisiting this, I can’t even adequately express how disappointed I am in this decision short of dropping a couple more f-bombs. This is just a change that is inexcusable.
I think, and I honestly believe this, that if in the process of making a movie you inspire or change one person, even a little bit, your movie was worth making. If you were able to bring joy or laughter, or happiness (or more multifaceted emotions) what you have done is art. That being said, there’s apparently a hierarchy of art for the same reason that the Mona Lisa is worth like a trillion dollars while you can commission something off DeviantArt of five bucks, or why some movies win Oscars and some win the ire of film critics. Love, Simon, at the end of the day, is a good movie and it will doubtlessly inspire many, especially a lot of people who don’t typically see themselves represented in media. But when I look at the source material, and then I see the finished product I just see so much wasted potential. A lot of times when making poor decisions in the course of filming it becomes relatively hard to self-police as the ball really gets rolling, and the highway to hell was paved with the best of intentions. What this movie had was a blueprint for a really fantastic house, and what it should have done was used the blueprint to make that house. Maybe after it’s done, get some new paint, maybe add a new wing to it and get some dope furniture. That did not happen. Instead, the filmmakers used most of the blueprint but made some really bad decisions like adding three chimneys but no fireplaces and forgetting parts of the roof. This movie left me a laundry list of reasons to criticize it, and that’s all this review has been. So much of what makes this movie not the best are such simple fixes or fixes that wouldn’t have been problems if they had just walked the line a little fricking closer! Go see it, it’s a fun watch, but also see it because hopefully in the future the big screen can be used to demonstrate realistic and engaging romances between minorities as well as more typical blockbuster romantic comedies, just like it already is for heterosexuals. Wack.