“My life is totally normal,” the teenage star of Love, Simon confides in its opening voiceover. “I’m just like you.” Or maybe even better: His high-school-sweetheart parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner) are still blissfully married; his sister is a tiny Top Chef who stews her own compotes; and he has a kind, funny, diverse group of friends, including Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and Leah (13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford).
He’s also pretty sure he’s gay — a closely-held secret drawn out when Blue, a pseudonymous blogger on a local school gossip site, posts his own confession, and the two begin a sort of epistolary love affair that seems destined to be dragged into the open, with or without their mutual consent.
Love, directed by small-screen godhead Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, the Arrow-verse) and penned by two This Is Us scribes, often feels less like filmmaking than peak TV, with its strenuously current references (Drake, Jon Snow, a family dog named Bieber) and CW-ready Simon (Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson, who has the baby face and long bones of an Ansel Elgort cousin).
Still, the writing is consistently sharp, even if the story is cushioned in a sort of self-acceptance bubble where everyone is adorable and actualized and essentially safe from anything other than the occasional, instantly condemned bout of bullying or their own self-doubts. There’s some real, weird fun in secondary characters like Tony Hale’s desperate-to-be-down principal, Natasha Rothwell’s exasperated drama teacher, and Logan Miller’s Martin, a theater kid so eager to please he practically turns himself inside out. (13 Reasons‘ Miles Heizer also has a small but memorable role, as does Australian import Keiynan Lonsdale).
In a lot of ways, Simon feels queerness with all the sharp edges and scary bits sanded down, the inevitable millennial stepchild of Will & Grace-style mainstream gay-dom. But the movie also speaks to another, more precious kind of privilege, one that straight kids have had since movies began: the right to a romantic fantasy served up like ice cream, tart and sweet. B+