‘Love, Si­mon’ re­view: mid­dling, mas­ter­piece

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Ever since En­nis Del Mar and Jack Twist cud­dled on big screens across Amer­ica, Hol­ly­wood has spoiled gay au­di­ences to the point it’s tempt­ing to for­get gen­er­a­tions of mis­treat­ment, from the pad­locks the in­dus­try put on the clos­ets of lead­ing ac­tors, to the dearth of au­then­tic gay themes and com­plex char­ac­ters in main­stream films.

For many gay men, “Broke­back Moun­tain” was as spir­i­tual as it was artis­tic, its af­fir­ma­tion of the same-sex ex­pe­ri­ence am­pli­fied by its crit­i­cal suc­cess. A few years later, with LGBT Amer­i­cans wounded and dis­traught by the re­cent pas­sage of Propo­si­tion 8 in Cal­i­for­nia, “Milk” was al­most a big-screen séance, with Sean Penn chan­nel­ing our fallen hero so con­vinc­ingly that he would sweep the awards sea­son as best ac­tor.

The bril­liance of “Moon­light” matched those ear­lier films, as did the de­vo­tion of its au­di­ence, who fi­nally saw their emo­tions and ex­is­tence re­flected in main­stream art. It was like­wise hon­ored, and there was never any ar­gu­ing the man­i­fest claim a story about black gay love had for best pic­ture of the year.

Re­gard­less of th­ese ac­com­plish­ments, it still takes a move­ment for gay-themed sto­ries to make it from art houses and the in­ter­net to mul­ti­plexes and main­stream au­di­ences. Such mo­men­tum is build­ing around “Love, Si­mon.”

It was in­deed a de­light­ful story that nav­i­gated the gay imag­i­na­tion like a bub­bly tour guide for straight vis­i­tors. Gay teens search for love while si­mul­ta­ne­ously try­ing to find “self,” and the film treated some of th­ese unique-yetu­ni­ver­sal ob­sta­cles with queer caprice.

“Love, Si­mon” is a much-ap­pre­ci­ated mod­ern­iza­tion of the com­ing-out process, break­ing from the so­ci­etal and artis­tic nar­ra­tive of a tor­mented, sui­ci­dal out­cast that didn’t match the ex­pe­ri­ence of plenty of gay ado­les­cents, and will likely res­onate even less with fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of early-ad­justed LGBT youth. Yet, it also re­vealed how pop­u­lar­ity doesn’t pro­tect a young gay per­son from angst as they try to un­der­stand them- “‘Love, Si­mon’ was a won­der­ful artis­tic state­ment that brought me close to tears dur­ing sev­eral scenes; but, it was not al­ways a good movie.” selves, and won­der whether their truth will poi­son the life they know and mostly love.

For all of th­ese rea­sons, along with the over­all lov­abil­ity of the cast, “Love, Si­mon” was a won­der­ful artis­tic state­ment that brought me close to tears dur­ing sev­eral scenes; but, it was not al­ways a good movie.

“I thought the writ­ers nailed it dur­ing all of the poignant scenes, and the nu­ances of our anx­i­ety,” I said to a friend af­ter­ward. “But some of those ev­ery­day, in-be­tween scenes — the ban­ter was lazy and the act­ing was —”

“But that’s the thing I love about it,” said my friend who loved ev­ery­thing about “Love, Si­mon,” and is plan­ning re­peat view­ings. “It has that ‘ba­sic­ness’ that all other ro­man­tic come­dies have — those mo­ments of cheap dia­logue and shit that would never hap­pen.”

It is pos­si­ble for some­thing to be both mid­dling and a mas­ter­piece, and “Love, Si­mon” is ground­break­ing among teenage rom-coms, and po­ten­tially in main­stream­ing LGBT-themed cin­ema. It ex­tends the string of movies to­ward which gay au­di­ences have felt a pro­found emo­tional con­nec­tion, even if each scene and sen­tence weren’t as metic­u­lous as in the ear­lier films.

We’ve got­ten used to movies that ac­cu­rately spot­light gay sto­ries re­ceiv­ing ac­co­lades, and “Love, Si­mon” is pow­er­ful enough for us to ex­pect it to be rec­og­nized and re­warded. But it’s enough for me to have a gay love story snug­gle up be­side “Six­teen Can­dles” as movies that weren’t Os­car con­tenders, but sim­ply com­ing-of-age clas­sics. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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