Screening Room

Is America ready for Hollywood’s first big gay teen romance?

 

Love Simon

Superhero purveyor Greg Berlanti—the producer behind the CW hits Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl—makes a bid for a new kind of family romantic hero with what might just be the major Hollywood film featuring teen gay romance.

Berlanti has made a foray into similar territory in the past, writing and directing the lovely indie romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Club. Now regarded as something of a gay life classic, that film proved a breakout for now-famous actors Zach Braff, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Theroux and Andrew Keegan.

Berlanti, who, of late, has overseen production on Riverdale and announced his engagement to soccer star Robbie Rogers, returns to directing with Love, Simon, based upon Becky Albertalli’s 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. The story finds 16-year-old Simon falling for an online boyfriend only known as “Blue.” The film puts a queer twist on all those coming-of-age high school movie tropes in the vein of John Hughes: home parties, sports games, passed notes, secret crushes and locker-room drama.

Love, Simon features an A-list cast, including Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Nick Robinson (Jurassic World), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) and Alexandra Shipp (X-Men Apocalypse). More importantly though, Love, Simon marks another important milestone: the film will receive wide release from 20th Century Fox as big budget romantic comedy with a mainstream-sized marketing budget.

“In every other major studio film, it’s always the guy and the girl. And there was something so powerful about it being just a guy imagining himself with this other guy in a film again that was going to be marketed and sold as a mainstream romantic comedy,” Berlandi tells Entertainment Weekly.

Getting a big studio behind a gay teen film is an important step in mainstreaming out loves and relationships, considering that even great films like Brokeback Mountain receive limited releases. The pullers of the Hollywood purse strings always fear a flop. Naturally then, a film depicting teen same love strikes fear in studio bossesover setting off the audience’s “ick” factor, even in an era when Americans overwhelmingly approve marriage equality. With Love, Simon, has Hollywood finally mustered the courage–and the faith in the audience–to show queer love, let alone queer teen love, in a major motion picture?

The film won’t be screened for many months so it’s hard to say how bold it is. But we’re looking forward to finding out.

With a noted director, acclaimed source material, and a cast of up-and-coming actors, Love, Simon has all the making of a hit, and one that a mainstream audience will finally enjoy.

But you’ll have to hold your breath: Love, Simon hits theatres March 16, 2018.