Title: Love, Simon
Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
Release Date: 2018
Director: Greg Berlanti
Runtime: 110 mins.
***Please note: this review contains spoilers for both the film (Love, Simon) and the novel (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda). If you have not yet read or watched it and do not want anything spoiled for you, please come back to this review later!***
Simon Spier is gay, but nobody knows that yet—except for Blue, Simon’s mysterious email pen pal who happens to also be gay and attends Creekwood with Simon. At first, Simon is happy with the anonymity of it all. But when someone starts blackmailing Simon—someone who has screenshots of his emails with Blue—things get…slightly more complicated. Simon races to figure out Blue’s identity before his big secret is revealed.
Okie doke. Let’s go. Okay. I’ve been waiting to watch Love, Simon until I could get my hands on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. When I noticed the film on HBO, I decided to just go ahead and listen to the audiobook at work, as I wasn’t actively searching for the physical copy, anyway. I really enjoyed the audiobook and was excited to watch the film. So last weekend, I woke up early on a Sunday and did just that.
Unfortunately—and surprisingly—the movie let me down. I’m not quite sure if I’d have liked it any more if I hadn’t read the book first, but I doubt it. As both a movie and an adaptation, it failed me.
First, let’s talk about the small things. Things that were changed in the film version but didn’t really impact the story in a big way. So, for starters, if you’ve read the book, you know family plays a huge part in the story. Simon has 2 sisters he’s very close to, as well as a mom and dad. In the movie, he only has 1 sister. She’s not very important to the movie, so most of the family dynamic deals with Simon coming out to his parents. But that’s definitely a much smaller part in the movie than book.
Another change is how Blue and Simon start talking. This change was made to save time. Can’t spend the first part of the film giving a narrated history of their emails and how it all started, right? Instead, Simon finds a post from Blue on the tumblr were Blue directly comes out as gay. Thus begins the emails. Not a big change, but a necessary one to save time.
Then there are the little details that bug fans, even though they literally don’t mean anything to the movie. 1) Simon’s email address is different. It’s not a reference to an Elliott Smith song, but rather a song from The Kinks. I’m not sure why? Maybe they banked on more people recognizing The Kinks than Elliott Smith. *shrugs* 2) Blue mentions loving Oreos, not Simon. 3) The final scene where Simon and Blue meets is on a Ferris wheel, not one of those horrible spinning rides. (Much more romantic.)
Now for the bigger changes. One I actually really, really liked. So, the whole “mystery” of the story is Blue’s identity. In the book, some people found it obvious—others, not so much. But how were they going to keep this mystery in the movie? The emails would have to be voiceover. Viewers would easily recognize a voice, therefore mystery over. What the movie did was actually really cool. Each time Simon guesses the identity of Blue, the voiceovers are read in that character’s voice, showing that character typing an email. So at first, Simon guesses Bram, and we see Bram typing an email. At first, as a reader, I was furious. Like, wow, going to spoil Blue’s identity right off the bat, eh? But then Simon decides its not Bram, and we get other characters writing the emails and doing the voiceovers. That was super clever. It really got me. I actually started to think the film was going to change Blue’s identity, which would have made me really mad. So I’m glad they kept that the same, and I applaud their creative way of getting around that challenge.
So, what I didn’t like was how big the characters were changed personality-wise. This really impacted the story for me. Every character was, and excuse my language but, shittier. Simon was actually a dick to Nick and Abby and Leah. In the book he’s not so bad, but in the film he does some crappy things. I mean, he blatantly lies to keep Nick and Abby apart, and even tells Nick to ask Leah out. Geez. But still, Nick and Abby and Leah are also bigger dicks in the film. They don’t even care that Simon was outer, or is being bullied for it, or was blackmailed. They only care about themselves. Even Martin, the blackmailer, is worse. I mean, wow. Talk about a group of awful people. I liked everyone (for the most part) in the book, but in the movie, I really only liked Simon, though I had major issues with his character.
And then there’s Leah. In the book, Leah kind of sucks. She’s always angry and moody. I related to her self-consciousness, but she always wanted people to be miserable with her, and even almost hates a girl just because her crush likes that girl instead. Dumb. So I’m glad the movie didn’t totally stay on point with that aspect of her character, but they did change a huge thing: Leah loves Simon, not Nick. Which I hated. Leah and Nick are BFFs. I did not want her in love with her best friend, I wanted her in love with Nick like it should have been. There are way too many of these tropes, despite Simon being gay. And then, when Simon wrongs Abby and Nick, Leah still takes their side and is mean to Simon. Sooooooo who cares that Simon thought she was into Nick instead??? He was trying to help her??? It’s not his fault he’s gay and didn’t recognize the signs???? Like, come on, Leah. I know, I know: teenagers. But STILL!! I need to still enjoy the movie…
Because of this change in character for everyone, I couldn’t enjoy the movie. The book is cute and fluffy and UGH so good. But the movie? Mostly cringe-y and sad and mean. The end quarter of the movie makes up for a little bit of the shit, so there’s that. But I still wouldn’t say I liked the movie. I probably won’t ever watch it again. So I’m definitely going to say I like the book better than the movie in this instance. Even just as a film, when all the characters annoy/anger me, I don’t really like it. And the whole atmosphere was more cringe-y than cute. So yeah, not a fan on a strict film or adaptation level. And yes to the book, no to the movie.
And before I go, let me just say that Nick Robinson is amazing, and beautiful, and a great actor, and I love him, and he is the best part of this film. Thank you.