Netflix’s ‘The Half of It’ is probably the most heartwarming movie that we may have seen recently. And the timing couldn’t have been perfect. Here at OtakuKart, we have stressed continually on the timing of whatever content is airing these days. With most of the movies airing on Video on Demand (VoD) instead of getting a theatrical release, streaming services are a blessing. Thank god for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV+, Disney. If this wasn’t for them, the finished projects would never see the light of the day.
‘The Half of It’ is one of those classic Young Adult heartwarming romcoms with a queer theme. Netflix has been continually challenging the content of romcoms by bringing out movies such as Sierra Burgess is a Loser. ‘The Half of It’ is sort of like the same, albeit with major differences. The common thing in both cases is that the movies focus on YA content. But the major difference is that both the movies challenge the dominant narratives that have been going around in Hollywood for the longest.
With ‘The Half of It’ Netflix now has its own collection of YA comedies pertaining to different subjects. It shares a massive similarity with ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’, in that it is also led by an Asian-American female. The other glaring similarity is with ‘Sierra Burgess Is a Loser’ for challenging the dominant and hegemonic narrative on teen romance and heroines of teen romances.
‘The Half of It’ was a long time coming, especially with more mature content. It puts a classic queer spin on romantic-comedies and the director and screenwriter, Alice Wu has truly done a commendable job with this one. Starring in the movie as the lead is Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu who is the subject of the movie. She’s a pretty standard high schooler who so far has scored straight A’s all her life. She part times by writing papers for her classmates and that’s how she makes some extra pocket money. All is well till she is hired by a high school jock, Paul Munsky(Daniel Diemer) to compose love letters for a girl he’s in love with. This is where the story twist happens. Turns out, this girl that Daniel is in love with is the same girl that Leah likes.
So far Leah has been an average student with no friends at school whatsoever. She’s been hiding her sexual orientation, and she’s not comfortable coming out of the closet, yet. But the day she undertakes this job of composing love letters is the day things get rolling for her. For one, the audiences see her warmer and loving side and she secretly crushes on the girl. For the other part, her friendship with the jock grows by heaps. We like that break from the usual narrative. It’s been years since we have seen the regular jock fall in love with an unnoticeable girl or vice versa. But to see a lovely friendship blossom between the two. Here is a movie which shows no girl hating or competing to get the man, no classroom loser and star pairing, none whatsoever.
Let’s talk about the girl both these protagonists are obsessed with. She’s Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). She lives a quiet life with her dad and at school. She’s nervous and awkward in front of the lousy teenagers of the school. Wu has done a fantastic job of capturing that. Her job is to make people sound smart by writing essays and now love letters for them. When she gets hired by the jock to make him sound smart, we see a different side of hers.
It’s within closed quarters that Ellie and Paul work to grab Aster’s attention. Now Aster is the girl of everyone’s dreams and it requires brainstorming to get there. For starters, Paul has to form a formidable friendship with Ellie to win Aster’s heart. Yeah, it works that way. And second of all, Ellie has to break out of her shell to respond to Paul’s friendship advances. And that is exactly how the whole story progresses. So essentially, the story is buffed by the love triangle of an outsider Ellie, a jock Paul and the darling, Aster.
The two of them become close friends as they’re working together to woo Aster, with the lovable jock breaking down many of the walls Ellie has put up over the years of being an outsider in their small town. But as both Ellie and Paul’s feelings for Aster deepen, the three teenagers form a love triangle that will force each of them to confront their views on love and relationships. The movie sells itself as a friendship more of a romantic relationship. The aim is to explore someone your age who finally gets you. And it does a brilliant job at that.
She gets hired by a football player to write a letter to the girl he’s in love with, but she has feelings for the girl as well. ‘The Half of It’ isn’t about romance as much as it is about a young woman hiding her identity and then slowly becoming who she is supposed to be. As such those of you looking for a classic new-age rom-com experience should pursue this one more closely. The movie leaves you more aware of the experiences of YA queers. It is an amazing take on Breakfast Club-Esque outsider, but with a hidden orientation and a business.
With more movies leaving Netflix in June than coming-in, ‘The Half of It’ is a treat to watch. For those of you looking to watch it, The Half of It streams on Netflix. It is 104 minutes in duration long and it is rated PG-13. You can check out the trailer of the movie here. Needless to say it figures in the top romantic comedies to watch right now.