No better comic romance out there, teen or otherwise.
The Half of It
Director: Alice Wu (Saving Face)
Cast: Leah Lewis (Station 19), Daniel Diemer (Sacred Lies)
Runtime: 1h 44m
By: John DeSando
“The good thing about being different is that no one expects you to be like them.” Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis)
The thing about teen comedies is that everyone expects them to be the same, as I did when my literate friend, Mindy, enthusiastically recommended Netflix’s new teen romance, The Half of It. I thought she might be too enthusiastic, but then so do I tend to be on occasion. However, Mindy is “totally” right, no bad scene exists in this drama.
Let me warn the rest of the adult population that this comedy may be the definitive teen statement for us on the difficulty of finding love, and the courage it takes, and the mess it will be no matter how it is resolved. And how worthy that statement is for all human beings, not just teens. And how much being determined is a value for success in life.
Ellie is a bright Asian-American senior in a small NY State town with one railroad track (if you need metaphor for the difficulty of being different, much less a creative teen in a small town). A loner who writes papers for less-gifted students (think Cyrano), Ellie writes love notes to his own Roxanne for Paul (Daniel Diemer), while Ellie’s feelings for his love, Aster (Alexxis Lemire), flourish. These are not the only characters for whom Cupid is aiding their search for the other half as the Greeks thought we are all doing, some for the similar half even.
2018’s Love, Simon could try to compete but will lose, as most others will, because writer/director Alice WU keeps her eye on the ball of romance for any generation. Although football games and bimbos abound, smart teens like Ellie and Aster (Paul is just a nice guy meant to make sausage) keep their eyes on the ultimate victory—college. That single train will take them right there if they work for it as intensely as they do for love.
Wu works in the ending of Casablanca (my fave romance) to explain the love-is-tough motif. Whether two men, two women, or one woman and one man walk into the fog, it’s love that’s on the other side. Think about our gift to enjoy a masterful romance like The Other Half at a time when all we have are brightly lit screens to warm us.
Watch this brilliant piece of cinema, a potent example of just how good a film can be in tumultuous times. Thank you, Alice Wu, Leah Lewis, and Netflix.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.