Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Half of It: Movie Review

Refreshing teen rom-com, but also dull, drab and uninteresting.
When Netflix first announced The Half of It, it was met with a lot of complaining and wondering why another teen romance was necessary. But for those with an attention span longer than the time it takes to read one sentence, the answer was pretty clear: this is a new take on the old teen romance story. It’s not just about adding diversity, it’s about adding new characters who can take the old story in new directions. Directions that aren’t possible without diversity.   2020

Directed by: Alice Wu

Screenplay by: Alice Wu

Starring: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire

Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is a smart but poor Asian-American. She tries her hardest to make good for her father but it results in her living a sullen, lonely life helping others, never herself. She makes money by doing homework assignments for all the popular dumb jocks and otherwise keeping to herself. But the latest dumb jock who wants her help is Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), who pays her to write love letters from him to the prettiest girl at the school, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire).

I know you’ve heard that plotline before, but this is where things change. Ellie is in love with Aster, and Aster is the best written and best portrayed “pretty girl” from any teen rom com. Usually the pretty girl is a secondary character, audiences just accept that all of the characters are in love with them for no reason other than they are pretty, so they don’t need to be written as anything more than that. But luckily here, we’ve already established that Ellie is smart, smart enough to know that love isn’t built off of looks alone. Aster is also smart, and realistic. And that’s the refreshing change.

Unfortunately The Half of It, isn’t as interesting as it should be. It’s set in Squahamish, a very poor town where the constant rain washes away the aspirations of all of its inhabitants. The town is called Squahamish, of course it’s a dirty, poor town. All the characters, even the popular dumb jocks, are meek and quietly spoken. That fits the character of Ellie, but she needs to be surrounded by more entertaining people if she’s going to be the lead.

To drive home how dull the town of Squahamish is, the entire movie is shot in very dull colours, low lighting and all of the scenery is different shades of grey and brown. Sure, it’s more subtle than your typical teen rom com, but this isn’t subtle. We get it, these characters are living dead-end lives in a dead-end town, where it just happens to rain all the time (and it’s supposedly in Iowa, hardly a state known for its rainfall). That gets boring quick. The freshness of the story, Aster in particular, is not enough to carry a movie that insists on making everything as dull as possible. The result is a dull, drab movie with some good writing.