This coming-of-age comedy shows us the plagiarism and truth about love.
It’s always fun to look back at the best coming of age movies like ”The Breakfast Club” or ”Sixteen Candles,” and it’s also refreshing to find ones inspired by the late John Hughes like ”Love, Simon” or more recently on Netflix, “The Half of It.”
Written and directed by Alice Wu in her first film since “Saving Face,” the movie delivers some sweet and sentimental writing and often funny situations. We’ve seen all this before. Or did we? No matter how many times we’ve seen the movies or read the books, there’s usually something new added to the coming-of-age genre.
We meet three teenagers from different worlds but similar moods and personalities. In fact, they seem so unhappy in their fictional town of Squahamish, Washington. Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is a straight-A student, who writes some homework assignment for her fellow students; Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), who has a crush on a girl; and Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) is that girl he likes.
Paul asks Ellie to help him write a love letter to Aster, and she agrees. We also see Aster as the deacon’s (Enrique Murciano) daughter, who longs to leave the boyfriend (Wolfgang Novogratz) she doesn’t love. In fact, her father expects her to marry him.
What’s not a fresh coming-of-age teen love story without challenges? This one also revolves around Ellie secretly having a thing for Aster, according to how she reads her letters and texts her. You start to think that Ellie and Paul will get romantically involved, because of their partnership, but it’s not that at all. Paul likes Aster, but Ellie likes her more. We deserve respectful and good-natured lesbian love stories such as this. And it brought me to tears when I heard Kate McKinnon came out of the closet.
“The Half of It” gets a little confusing when we see the characters exchange texts, but it warms us up with its positive attitude about love, choices, and loyalty. We also receive quotes from many great writers and poets about the meaning of it all, like Oscar Wilde’s “When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends be deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”
Unlike another recent Netflix film “Dangerous Lies,” the young actors (whom you probably haven’t heard of before) are portraying humans with emotions and values. Lewis, Diemer, and Lemire are all fine in their own respective ways, and you support them every step of the way. Even Collin Chou (“The Matrix” sequels) adds an impressive touch as Ellie’s father, who is learning English, and acknowledges his daughter’s ambitions and feelings.
Alice Wu and co-producer Anthony Bregman are not expecting teenagers to go all mushy about the characters, and they don’t make them appear like movie teenagers. They’re smart, affectionate people.
Available for Streaming on Netflix