Remember the John Hughes’ teen movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club” where everyone was easy on the eyes, even the nerd, and most of the kids were funny or sarcastic, especially the nerd? And one character had a “secret crush” on another character and it all turned out right in the end?
“Love, Simon,” (PG-13) is that movie for today’s teens, except our hero, 17-year-old Simon (Nick Robinson), has a secret. He’s gay but too afraid to tell anyone, including his cool parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and his close friends. Instead he confides his feelings online to a fellow student he only knows as “Blue.” Throughout the movie, Simon imagines which of his classmates might be Blue.
“Love, Simon” which is based on Becky Albertalli’s novel, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” is important because it’s the first studio film to focus on a kid like Simon. More confused than tormented, we know that Simon is going to be OK, but he can’t be himself at home or at school, only with Blue. When Simon does something teen-movie stupid, his classmate Martin, (a.k.a. The Nerd), discovers Simon’s secret. Martin threatens to out Simon unless he fixes him up with his friend Abby. The movie spends way too much time on this subplot and not nearly enough time on Simon’s relationship with his “lifelong friend” Leah.
In his directorial debut, Greg Berlanti, who produces a boatload of TV shows including “Riverdale,” “The Flash,” and “Blindspot,” keeps things moving, and there’s plenty of humor that even us old folks will get. However Berlanti does not have John Hughes’ talent for character development. The only one we really get to know is Simon. Leah’s big moment toward the end of the movie lacks impact because we really don’t get to know her.
And now, Amanda is going to get kind of mean.
The teens in this film are impossibly good-looking. Everyone looks like they should be modeling clothes in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Every potential “Blue” is Boy Band material. It is distracting as you never feel like you’re watching a movie about high school kids. You feel like you’re watching a movie about gorgeous 20 something actors who are pretending to be gorgeous high school students.
Despite the flaws, “Love, Simon,” got me for a variety of reasons. The ending is brave, yet if the two characters weren’t gay, it would be as conventional as you can get. We’re never worried about Simon’s practically perfect parents accepting him, but I still got a bit emotional when Simon came out to them. But the main reason I love “Love, Simon,” has nothing to do with the quality of the film. Growing up, I knew several Simons. If this movie had been out then, it literally could have changed their lives. “Love, Simon,” might not be a great movie, but it is an important one.
In Case You Missed it, I finally got to see “I, Tonya” which was nominated for several Academy Awards. It’s a compelling look at the rise and fall of Tonya Harding, the champion figure skater and first American woman to land a triple axel. She became better known for her role in the 1994 kneecapping of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. But just what was her role in what the film refers to as “the incident?” Based on news reports and interviews with Harding, her then-husband Jeff Gillooly, and others, director Craig Gillespie presents a variety of viewpoints and possible scenarios.
But before we get to “the incident,” we meet young Tonya, a determined and feisty youngster and her shall we say, forceful mother LaVona (Oscar-winner Allison Janney). Tonya is not your typical figure skater. She’s more athletic than graceful, wears cheap costumes, swears at her coaches and confronts the judges when she’s unhappy with her scores. To escape her abusive mother, she marries Gilooly, and ultimately becomes the national champion and competes in the Olympics. And then there’s “the incident.”
“I, Tonya” (R) is an entertaining look at an almost unbelievable story. Margot Robbie is all-in as Harding, delivering an uninhibited, exciting performance. Janney is terrific as one very bad, hard-living, trash-talking mom. We get very little Nancy Kerrigan, just a reenactment of that infamous “Why, Why” crying scene after the attack. I think this is a wise choice, as Harding is so much more interesting than Kerrigan. (She always was, don’t you think?). “I, Tonya” might not answer the big question of how much Harding knew about “the incident” but the movie is such a blast, it doesn’t matter.
Love, Simon - 3 ½ Stars
I, Tonya - 4 ½ Stars