Opening in theaters today is the John Hughes-like teen drama, “LOVE, SIMON” about am affable 17-year old high school student in suburban Atlanta who has a perfect family and a deep secret, sort of like a gay Ferris Beuller meets Dawson’s Creek.
The film, directed by Greg Berlanti and written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, is based on the young adult novel: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Atlanta area psychologist and mother Becky Albertalli.
The novel – and film – portray the lives of upper middle class high school seniors, where male, female, white, black, jock, and theatre geek kids all bond and eat at the same lunch table at Creekwood High (filmed at Grady, a stand in for Riverwood).
But missing from the film are the flashbacks to Simon’s best friend’s (Nick’s) Bar Mitzvah party; Nick’s Jewish identity (I do not think he is Nick Eisner any longer); and (fortunately) Simon’s clueless idea that all Jews come from Israel.
The film remains close to the novel, and, understandably, these Jewish elements were not integral to the novel or the film. Don’t get me wrong, it is not as bad as casting all Irish characters in a film adaptation of a Neil Simon play.
LOVE, SIMON is about Simon Spier (rhymes with beer) in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. Simon is popular and smart, has a car, drinks iced coffees on the way to school, and has very hip and cool parents who were the football star and valedictorian in high school. His mother is now a psychologist. Simon begins an anonymous email relationship with another anonymous closeted gay teen in his high school; they use the fake names of Blue and Jacques when they sign their letters. Blue’s email address is based on the primary and secondary colors of blue and green; Jacques’ (Simon’s) email address is based on a song by the Kinks that he listens to… on vinyl (he is so cool).
Within the first few minutes of the film (and novel), Martin, the school’s top nerdy theatre geek, discovers Simon’s online affair and hidden gay identity, and bullies and blackmails Simon into setting him up with Simon’s newest best friend of three month: Abby Suso. Abby has just moved from Washington DC to Atlanta for her senior year of high school.
In the novel, Martin A. plays the lead of the evil Fagin in the school musical, Oliver.
In the film, he plays the lead MC in Cabaret.
As a semi-duplicitous, blackmailed Simon continues trading emails with “Blue,” he begins to fantasize about all the classmates Blue might be. Perhaps Blue is a cute guy from Bio class who works as a waiter at the Waffle House near Roswell Road, or perhaps he is the fellow cast member from Cabaret? Astute observers will take note that while other classmates celebrate Christmas for Winter Break, “Blue” is seen lighting a large Hanukkiah with his father for “Hotel Hanukkah.” “Blue” jokes that twice before the holiday candles have set off hotel sprinklers.
So … while the film eliminates some Jewish subplots, it is not a schande, because it includes two very important ones.
Want to read more? Try Becky Albertalli’s follow-up novel, titled, The Upside of Unrequited (April 2017). This novel tells the story of seventeen-year-old, Washington, DC-area Molly Peskin-Suso, a plus-size, bacon-loving Jewish teen (just like the author) with a twin sister named Cassie.
Her third will focus on Leah, the spurned but loving best friend of Simon.
The official Trailer from 20th Cenury Fox:
Not the father-son speech from Call Me By Your Name, but John Hughes-y
SPOILER SPOILER BELOW:
(Two characters in the film say, what do you call someone who is BLack and Jewish… BLewish…)