Writer / director Alice Wu‘s “The Half of It” is precisely the charming tonic we all need right now, considering the current state of the world. This adorable teen rom-com about “the oppression of fitting in” is a feel-good, easy to watch, and easy to like Netflix original film (it premiers on the streaming platform on May 1).
Shy and nerdy student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) lives in a small town with her dad (Collin Chou). She doesn’t have many friends at school, and she helps keep the lights on by writing grade-A essays for her classmates for $20 a pop. When the sweet lunkhead jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) approaches her for help writing a love note to win over pretty, popular girl Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie at first declines. A change of heart (and $50 later), Ellie and Paul form an unlikely friendship that gets even more complicated when she discovers both she and her new buddy have feelings for the same girl.
Wu has done a knockout job creating a scenario where a girl is searching for love but finds friendship, and her true self, along the way. The relationships feel genuine as does everything else about the movie — except for the overwritten dialogue.
The screenplay is burdened with a string of platitudes that sound as if they were written by a well-read teenager who mopes around a lot and believes they are super profound and intelligent in the ways of the world. I suppose you could say that is an accurate representation of that age group, but it’s constant and annoying as the pensive musings are hurled forth in stale succession. There’s also a weird religious element to the movie (although this is not a faith-based film).
It’s the likeable cast and their terrific chemistry that make the film work. These characters are delightful to spend time with, and their relationships feel authentic. The majority of the film is confident and thoughtful in all the right ways, and the love triangle will keep you guessing until the end.
“The Half of It” is a delightful story of self-exploration that’s hard not to love. It may be just what the doctor ordered.