Love Simon and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Does anyone else think we’re at the point where we need to come up with a better way of describing movies like this one other than “Like a John Hughes movie”? As much as those movies are a touchstone in popular culture, the phrase a bit played out at this point, and on top that movies such as this one, despite being quite faithful to the overall formula and tone that he developed, feels like something that couldn’t have (even if it SHOULD have) been made in his time. I mean I GUESS we could go with “teenage coming of age story”, but that still doesn’t feel like it fully encapsulates the specific high school angst and post puberty struggles of self-discovery that made us develop the term in the first place. Anyway, I’m just rambling here as I honestly had no idea of this movie’s existence until it showed up at my local theater, but I am happy that we’re getting an ACTUAL LGBTQIA+ teen comedy as that kind of movie is a lot more in my wheelhouse than the super serious LGBTQIA+ films like Moonlight or even Carol. Does this manage to succeed in being just as good if not better than its straight peers in the genre, or is its good intentions just not enough to carry this film all the way through its run time? Let’s find out!!
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your typical teenager, in that he’s not quite sure about his place in the world and has secrets that he doesn’t feel like sharing with the rest of the world. As the audience though, we’re privy to ALL that information and we find out right away that Simon is in fact gay but hasn’t come out yet; not to his friends Leah, Abby, and Nick (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr), nor to his parents (Josh Duhmael and Jennifer Garner) and little sister (Talitha Bateman). He has his reasons for doing so and it’s not like there’s a LAW that says you have to do it as soon as you know, so his plan is to just continue pining after hot dudes while hiding any trace that he’s actually doing so! Simple enough, right!? Well… not necessarily. It turns out that there’s ANOTHER closeted gay dude in school who posts an anonymous letter on the school’s blog under the pseudonym Blue and leaves an e-mail address for people to contact him at. Simon on a whim decides to reach out to him (using a pseudonym as well) which leads to a flurry of back and forth e-mails as Simon starts to develop feelings for this unknown “Blue” person. However, since this IS a movie about teenagers, there has to be SOME sort of disaster and in this case it’s the nerdy kid Martin (Logan Miller) who finds Simon’s letters and tries to set up an “arrangement” (*cough* Blackmail *cough*) where Simon will help him clean up his act, take better care of himself, and become a much more attractive and emotionally available person which will help him meet awesome women who think he’s awesome and they can have awesome dates together. At least that’s what I’m sure is going through MARTIN’S head to make this sound so much more innocent, but what it breaks down to is Simon (under threat of being forcibly outed) having to arrange dates between Martin and Abby who the former has a crush on. Yeah, not the BEST situation to be in all things considered, and worse yet he might end up losing his chances with Blue who might get scared off if Simon is forcibly outed; thinking he might be next if he keeps contacting him. Can Simon juggle this rough situation with his everyday duties of being the typical American teenager? Will Martin make good on his threats and just how far will Simon have to go to keep that from happening? How is it that EVERYONE’S teenage years suck!? You’d think at least ONE person would luck out at some point!
I knew that while I was writing my review of this movie that there was no way I could fully express my utter bewilderment at what happens in the final twenty or so minutes without having a damn near incomprehensible rant right in the middle and without giving away HUGE spoilers. Well now that the review is finished and you can find out my thoughts (essentially spoiler free) there, I think now is the time to get all this built up frustration out in a constructive and hopefully coherent manner. Needless to say that this will contain ALL OF THE SPOILERS for the movie as so much of my problems with the logic of this (both from my understanding of technology and from the rules the movie sets for itself) is what is ultimately revealed by the end, so don’t read this before going to see the movie which I still recommend you do despite how much I HATED the ending. Before we begin though, there’s still one very important question to answer.
Why Do I Care So Much!?
Honestly? I don’t really know. I mean, one of my favorite movies of the year is The Purge Election Year, and can I honestly say that THAT movie makes any more sense than this one? Probably not, but I think it ultimately comes down to what each movie is trying to accomplish. The Purge: Election Year is upfront with what it wants to be and infuses every moment of screen time with that sense of purpose. There’s no bait and switch or a drastic shifts in tone that make you questions whether or not the filmmakers want you to believe in what is going on (beyond as a scathing and blunt metaphor for the current state of US politics), so it manages to stay consistent all the way through. This movie feels disingenuous when it eventually gets around to turning Nerve from a plot device into the main dramatic thrust of the final act as it turns out to be SUPER EVIL. To be fair, it’s not like they aren’t dropping hints throughout the movie (and Nerve at no point doesn’t come off like the worst kind of hacktivist bro-centric garbage) but the movie doesn’t want us to focus on that until the end and when it does I don’t feel the movie earned the right to use this sloppy and barely defined entity in the way that it does. The Purge has a backstory and mechanics. Nerve has neither and so its constantly pulling stuff out of its ass to make it more threatening than it has any right to be in this grounded (if SLIGHTY exaggerated) world that the movie takes place in. When shit started to hit the fan, it just didn’t feel necessary to me, and they were biting off way more than they had any hopes of chewing. Well then, let’s get to it! Spoilers form here on out! Oh, and FYI, I’m not an expert (or even all that smart) in ANYTHING I’m about to discuss, so if someone out there wants to point out how stupid I am and how any of this makes sense, then go right ahead.
Nerve and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Well if they were gonna make a teenaged version of a David Fincher film, The Game is probably a good place to start. You don’t want to go with Se7en or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right off the bat! Then again, he already made his own teen movie with The Social Network. Anyway, this new movie starring the less famous (though probably not for long) Franco brother as well as the star of Hotel for Dogs and Nancy Drew (Okay, she was also in American Horror Story and Scream Queens) seems to be trying to tell us something about social media and… I guess dumb asses on YouTube? Whatever this movie is about, it at least has an interesting (if super spoilerific) trailer, so is it possible there’s something actually here to chew on? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Vee (Emma Roberts) who’s on the cusp of graduating high school but isn’t sure what college she wants to go to. In fact, indecision seems to be her biggest defining feature; possibly brought on by the untimely (and unexplained) death of her brother only two years earlier. Now she’s about to leave the comfort of compulsory education while still never living that true HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCETM. Luckily for her, social media and… probably a bunch of libertarian basement dwellers, have JUST the thing for her; an online service called Nerve. Her friend Sydney (Emily Meade) turns her onto it, and it’s basically a webcam site only instead of whipping her boobs out for money, she’s given dares to complete instead. I’m pretty sure whipping her boobs out would have been at least half the dares if this was in the REAL world, but in this movie she’s basically given Jackass style stunts instead. Her “Just Friends” friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is being a super wet blanket about all this which gives handsome as fuck Ian (Dave Franco) a chance to swoop in as another Nerve Player (you’re either a Player or a Watcher on Nerve) ready to take her on a city wide adventure with riskier and riskier dares for them to complete! Will these two make it through the night of dares with their internal organs intact? What is the true motivation of Ian who JUST SO HAPPENED to be in the same area as Vee? Just what are the evil puppet masters of Nerve planning!? Is it a pizza party!?