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story.lead_photo.caption Simon (Nick Robinson) is the popular high school student at the center of Love, Simon — the first mainstream studio romantic comedy told from the perspective of a gay teenager.

Love, Simon is a movie aimed at teens, with the simple message that it's best to be honest with yourself and others.

Sadly, too many adults haven't picked up on this.

Love, Simon

86 Cast: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keiynan Lonsdale, Miles Heizer, Talitha Bateman, Logan Miller, Tony Hale

Director: Greg Berlanti

Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

The title character Simon (Nick Robinson) is a popular high schooler who has many friends and a nagging secret. While his female classmates long for him, he'd rather date another guy. His father (Josh Duhamel) teases him about hiding porn, but the lad is careful not to drop any hints at whom he really loves. Nothing in his manner or even the decorations in his room indicates he's gay.

Simon hides his sexuality in plain sight. Like a lot of his peers, he's still trying to make sense of urges he hasn't had before. He hasn't gone on any dates, so no one of either sex knows what really goes on in his heart or head.

But then an unnamed blogger at his school confesses to being gay.

Simon answers anonymously, and the two strike up a relationship as pen pals. An obnoxious classmate named Martin (Logan Miller) discovers the electronic paper trail and blackmails Simon into helping him woo his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp). With his weak social skills and tendency for brash annoying behavior, Martin needs all the help he can get.

The pressure builds on Simon as he keeps lying to prevent people from knowing his private life. He has plenty to lose by coming out. In addition to making enemies, Simon is equally terrified about losing his friends.

If the script by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (working from Becky Albertalli's book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) feels familiar, it's also thankfully believable.

Simon and his peers seem like people one might actually encounter even in the real world, and his struggles with his conscience are consistently sympathetic. Secrets of all types can be crushing, and teens sometimes haven't developed the skills to deal with challenging realities. It's easy to say you'll stand up to a bully if one hasn't punched you yet.

Greg Berlanti's last movie was the forgettable Life As We Know It (which also starred Duhamel), but here he shows a knack for coaxing credible performances out his cast and for preventing the material from getting too maudlin. While some of the youngsters are about the age of college graduates, they do look like teens and haven't forgotten what the insecurities they experience are like. Duhamel and Jennifer Garner are solid as Simon's parents. They're surprised, but their support never seems fulsome or grating. (Unlike the annoying vice principal played by Tony Hale whose eagerness to bond with the students seems downright creepy.)

Berger and Aptaker appear to have used social media in the last five years and understand some of the consequences of oversharing or sharing any information at all. Love, Simon succeeds because it rarely plays like grown-ups talking down to viewers.

Simon (Nick Robinson) is keeping a secret from everyone, including his lifelong best friend Leah (Katherine Langford) in Greg Berlanti’s heartfelt teen comedy Love, Simon.

MovieStyle on 03/16/2018

Print Headline: Love, Simon

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