Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Robbed: The Half of It
We’re still a bit stung from the Oscar nominations earlier this week, and the Academy’s total shut out of one of the best films of the year, The Half of It. The film tells the story of Ellie (Leah Lewis), a shy Chinese-American girl labeled at school as a big nerd. When the handsome–if cloddish–Paul (Daniel Diemer) appeals to Ellie for advice with women, the two begin an unlikely friendship. As Ellie helps Paul write love letters to the beautiful Aster (Alexxis Lemire), however, things get complicated. Ellie begins to realize she has actually fallen in love with Aster also.
Writer/director Alice Wu crafts a very tender and very funny comedy that both channels the warm glow of John Hughes’ classic high school comedies, while also subverting it: Ellie, Paul and Aster are much more complex–and real–characters than anyone in Hughes’ filmography. Wu puts a queer twist on the classic Cyrano De Bergerac tale with a good dose of humor and sweetness. The Half of It also benefits from a terrific supporting turn by Collin Chu (best known as Seraph in The Matrix trilogy) as Ellie’s brooding father, Edwin. Edwin wants to love his daughter but doesn’t quite know how; his subsequent bonding with Paul helps open him up to American culture, and to his own feelings.
Heart-warming, gentle and very funny, we offer up The Half of It as a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Even if Oscar ignored it, that doesn’t mean the audience should.
Streams on Netflix.