There are major spoilers in this review.
Here’s an interesting story: I only heard about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda because of the movie. I saw a trailer for Love, Simon and went hmmm this looks cute, and of course I always want to read the book first. This coming-of-age young adult novel written by Becky Albertalli is absolutely adorable. It is charming, it is emotional, it is a very quick read, and I recommend it to people all the time. So the movie led me to the book, and that means I went into the movie with mixed feelings. The books are almost always better, but the question is … what makes something better? The medium of film is different from the medium of novels. I was going to give this movie a chance based on how it is as its own story, and maybe judge it on the side comparatively to the book. I think this was the way to go, as it made some significant changes to the book in ways that made sense for a movie, but also made me go hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Yes, that many ms. There are spoilers in this review from here on out, so beware. Also I recommend you read this great article from 10 teenagers talking about the movie and coming out.
Love, Simon is abut Simon Spier, a 16 year old gay kid with a wonderful family and group of friends, and everything in his life is pretty great outside of the fact he hasn’t come out of the closet yet. An interesting point of this story is that he’s not really scared that everyone in his life will reject him, and he knows how lucky he is because of that, but he’s still not quite ready to embrace his identity. Everything changes when another closeted gay man at school writes an anonymous post, and Simon e-mails him to start an anonymous correspondence so they can discuss their mutual situation. “Blue” and Simon slowly fall in love over the course of the e-mails, but Blue doesn’t want to reveal his identity, while Simon is desperate to. He sees Blue in every boy he starts having a crush on, wondering if it’s them. Unfortunately, Simon is pushed out of the closet by a terrible twat named Martin, who started blackmailing him at the start of the story. He had screenshots of all the conversations and wanted Simon to help him seduce Simon’s friend Abby.
Simon panics and agrees, even going so far as to purposely keep his friend Nick from dating Abby so Martin has a chance. But once it’s all out, his friends are furious with Simon for deceiving them re: Abbie and Martin, and his other best friend Leah is crushed as she’d been in love with Simon secretly for years. Now Simon is out and subject to bullying, but he has very sweet coming out moments with his family, and eventually confesses to the school about himself and the boy he loves. Blue has cut him off out of fear of the public situation. His friends forgive him and they all go to a carnival together where he will ride the ferris wheel until Blue comes to join him. The school all supports him in a very Hollywood-ized way, and he meets the man of his dreams, a cutie pie soccer star named Bram who he was already friends with.
So first I’m going to mention a few major differences between the movie and book: Leah is not in love with Simon, she’s in love with Nick, just like he assumed in the movie. Abby does talk to Simon about her hurt feelings re: Martin, but his friends do not abandon him after he comes out and stay by his side. Blue and Simon had many, many, MANY more e-mails between them where there were a lot of hints and personal stories that made you feel closer to them. The big reveal of Bram’s identity is not done with everyone watching, but privately on a tilt-a-whirl before they decide together to come out as a couple. Bram/Blue never actually cut Simon out, instead they have conflict because Bram thinks Simon wants him to be another boy. Martin is never given a “redemption” moment like helping Simon with a ticket, he’s cut out for good. As you can tell, all of these were changed in the movie for the obvious reason, to make this more Hollywood and grand and no doubt to send an even stronger message to closeted teens about supportive communities. I can see how it would be sweet for them to see a whole school cheering on Simon the way people do in heterosexual romantic comedies. In terms of making a big grand movie statement, these do make sense, and obviously they don’t have the time to do every single Bram/Simon letter (although there should have been time for more!).
The thing with Leah threw me off, and I think it was their attempt to make her more likable. In the book she’s a lot more upset about Abby taking her place in the group, both in Nick’s heart and in Simon coming out to her first. Making her in love with Simon causes her to come off as more sympathetic. I guess the difference is the movie is a statement and it’s dramatic, but the book is more personal and realistic. Not all the characters are likable, but that’s okay, and big moments are actually quiet and intimate rather than RIDING ON A FERRIS WHEEL WAITING FOR LOVE IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Man, that was a lot to ask of Blue/Bram, to not only come out but to come out in an aggressively public way. It was a romantic moment though, don’t get me wrong, but the comforting sweetness of their private encounters is preferable to me. I really didn’t like his friends turning on him though. Even if they could be upset about his manipulations, he was being black mailed by a snake. Real friends in my opinion would move past that and understand the secret was big enough to consume someone. Especially when they witness him get bullied at school and do nothing at all but stare. Kudos to the teachers for being hilarious and great (especially the drama teacher, she steals all her scenes), and the parents for being lovely.
I just think the book wasn’t grandiose enough for the movie, so they wanted to go bigger. As a movie that works, but I would say I immediately recommend people read the book if they enjoyed it. I’m really happy that this is out there in the world and that it’s reflective of a more tolerant society. There’s still a long way to go, but normalizing a happy romantic comedy about a teenage gay couple is pretty amazing. Go see it! Go read it! Support these cuties!