Love, Simon, a movie set to be released to all theaters this Friday, did not live up to its potential. The bar was set high by the movie’s inspiration, Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, a novel written by Becky Albertalli. Albertalli tells the heart-wrenching, personal tale of Simon Spier who finds himself in the position of having to face what he has been avoiding for 17 years: he’s gay. The book is narrated by Simon and focuses on his internal conflicts. The three hundred pages allow the reader to absorb every detail of each character’s life and personality–Simon’s family’s Oreo obsession, Blue’s perfect grammar, Nick’s attachment to music, Leah’s sarcasm, etc. The reader falls in love with each character, one by one, because none of them are perfect. Life at Creekwood High School portrays the familiar mess that is everyday life, and that is what could not be found in the movie.
When directors decide to create a movie based on a written story, they navigate the complicated territory between bookworms and moviegoers. While keeping in mind viewership and revenue, they often times try to stick to the given storyline, giving readers a chance to watch their favorite books come to life before their eyes–Love, Simon does not do this. There are several parts of the book that, although some are not critical to the general advancement of the plot, are left out or altered.
The writers choose to make the movie relatable to a larger audience rather than more relatable to a smaller audience. While it is true that sometimes books need to be altered in order to fit the time period and current events or humor, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was written only a couple years ago. Characteristics of the characters were developed in order to make the point that they weren’t necessarily the most in tune with the rest of the people their age. The movie almost completely looks past that aspect. Simon’s outdated music taste or Nick’s love for both music and soccer make them unique. Both of those characteristics are not included in the film. However, there is one scene that is not in the book that is well written and executed. Leah has a sincere talk with Simon about being “on the outside”. Leah’s insecurities make her feel like an outcast, and the movie does an excellent job of highlighting this.
The main reason that the book is so incredible is that it captures the unpredictability and complexity of life. Everything feels authentic, and that makes the reader feel all the more invested in Simon’s world. The movie, however, feels very formulated and rehearsed. Maybe it is just the cameras, lighting, makeup, and 20-year-olds playing characters who are 17, but other movies find ways to make the movie theater disappear and immerse the audience in a new universe. Love, Simon just feels like a movie, not an alternate universe. There are moments when you can tell the movie is trying to address the audience directly or give the audience what they want in a way that takes away from the reality of the movie. Sometimes the inspirational nature of monologues can add to the depth of a movie. However, in contrast to the way the book implies its inspirational message, the words do not feel sincere. While the actors do a job well done with what they were given, the cliché script is unavoidable. In many ways, the writers achieved what they were aiming for: a warm and fuzzy, lighthearted, Friday night kind of film. The point is that the story was not meant to be portrayed in that way.
The movie focuses more on Simon’s impact on and relation to the rest of the world, instead of his personal experience. Sometimes it is better to allow the audience to connect with a person’s story rather than address the underlying social cause at hand through what comes across as a public service announcement. Although he is not a real person, one could almost feel bad for Simon. They turn his private story into a political statement, and it isn’t even the right statement. The point of writing about people who are different is to try to convince others to understand them and recognize that they are just the same as anyone else in the ways that truly matter. However, this movie takes a well-crafted, genuine story and turns it into something that more closely resembles fan-fiction than the sincere novel it was based on. As a whole, the movie comes across as a feel-good, hyperbolically preachy and mainstream, misguided pep talk.
The ending was, quite bluntly, terrible. In the book, the ending is complex and characters continue to develop until the very last word. Simon’s eventual meeting with Blue is a private moment between the two of them, and it holds meaning in several ways. The movie makes a scene out of the reveal of Blue’s identity. Classmates crowd around with anticipation and excitement, and the moment is taken away from Simon. It is no longer about Simon and Blue. It is simply about the two gay guys, and that only furthers the stigma around being gay. On top of that, as if the events on the screen weren’t obnoxious enough, the entire audience in the movie theater cheered and applauded every time they kissed. That doesn’t happen during movies depicting a heterosexual relationship. It is unfortunate that the writers could not resist giving people what they want instead of what they need. Overall, the makers of this movie were ambitious and made choices in hopes of maximizing sales, but it does not do the book or the LGBT+ community justice.