Review – Love, Simon


As Black Panther continues to dominate the box office and resonate with audiences all around the world, there’s little question that its monumental success is largely rooted in its appeal to the underserved African-American audience.  Their culture and heritage is presented on screen in a major blockbuster film in a way that no one has ever seen before.  In the wake of that film comes Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon.  The LGBTQ community has been fighting uphill battles on many fronts in recent years.  In ways, progress has been made.  But the intolerant have recently been emboldened – perhaps more so than ever before – so that relative progress has often been met with a pungent ugliness hiding behind faux morality.

So, Love, Simon comes along at an excellent time.  The film tells the story of Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a high school student who is struggling to come to terms with his burgeoning realization that he is gay.  His fears are many, ranging from not wanting to throw turmoil into his loving family life to dealing with the social ramifications at school.  When another student discovers his secret, Simon must choose between succumbing to blackmail or being outed on someone else’s terms.


Love, Simon succeeds on so many different levels that I’m frankly having trouble deciding where to begin.  The most readily apparent theme in the film is, of course, tolerance.  Simon’s sexuality is not the only device used to address this idea, though it’s naturally the primary one.  The characters in the film – Simon’s family, friends, and other classmates – are written and portrayed beautifully and authentically, with a wide variety of personality types and beliefs.  But, like the real world (though this is easy to forget, at times), there are far more good people in Simon’s world than there are bad.  The bad ones are there – they need to be, in order to preserve artistic integrity, which is the single most important component of any creative endeavor – but the good ones dominate.  Yet, all of them are complex, with different layers, personalities, and thought processes.  A couple of them may be slightly exaggerated for humorous effect, but when it comes down to it, the film feels entirely real and it’s largely due to the characters and cast.

The aforementioned complexity also leads to the topic of forgiveness and understanding being approached.  Good people do bad things and good people say stupid things because even good people are flawed and sometimes it’s just hard to know what the right things to say and do are, in a given situation.  But it’s important that, as a society, we understand that and allow others who we know to be decent and well-meaning to make some indiscretions (within reason, of course) without punishing them for life.  Berlanti goes out of his way to highlight not only the complexity of humanity but the importance of seeing outside of ourselves when that complexity results in emotional pain.


And then there’s also the theme of being confident and comfortable with being oneself.  This is obviously conveyed through Simon’s arc but it’s not limited to only him.  At one point early in the film (and I’ll keep this vague to avoid spoilers), Simon is attempting to help fellow student Martin (Logan Miller) catch the eye of a girl at their school.  Simon is telling Martin that he needs to start by adopting a new wardrobe.  Martin, who isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a pillar of wisdom, stops Simon and remarks that he isn’t looking for Simon’s help in changing who he is; he wants help while still being himself.  In that moment, Simon comes to understand that other people struggle with identity issues, as well, even if in different contexts.  As long as no one is being hurt, it’s critical for every one of us to feel comfortable in our own skin and our convictions, and Love, Simon makes a point of communicating that idea to the audience in various ways.

Aside from these very important themes, I would like to make sure I state that the movie works exceptionally well with regards to all of the standard filmmaking staples, as well.  As I’ve already alluded to, the cast is tremendous and memorable (Natasha Rothwell’s Ms. Albright is my favorite), the dialogue is engaging, the story is compelling, the directing is effective, and, at the appropriate times, the movie is genuinely funny.  The audience in my screening and I all laughed out loud on a regular basis, as the screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (based on Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) combined with the excellent delivery by the cast transform the film into an experience that is equally entertaining and poignant.


What it all boils down to is that Love, Simon is a story that is relatable for all, regardless of sexuality.  The themes are not limited to just one single person or one single struggle.  We all have our struggles and said struggles are compounded by our social anxieties.  The film could have just as easily been titled Love Simon rather than Love, Simon because the message is that we all deserve to love and to be loved.

Yet, even though the themes aren’t limited to sexuality, the movie will likely speak very strongly to young viewers who identify as LGBTQ but have yet to come out and reveal themselves to the world.  I can definitely see this movie assisting many people in finding the strength and the courage to own their truth.  For some people, the film will be entertainment.  For others, it will be inspiration.  For all, it will be touching, moving, funny, enlightening, thoughtful, smart, inclusive, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and may even eventually come to be known as an important milestone.  There is nothing not to love about Love, Simon.

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Review – Love, Simon

Review – Annabelle: Creation


You likely know by this point that I consider the Conjuring films to be two of the three greatest horror films ever made, along with The Ring (my thoughts on those three films can be found here, here, and here).  The original Annabelle movie doesn’t have a great reputation, but it wasn’t all that bad.  Most people are only capable of throwing films into two categories: perfect and horrible.  It was neither of those, delivering pretty standard fare for a horror film and failing to impress or be memorable in any significant way, even if it wasn’t all that offensive, either.  Despite people swearing up and down that they hated the film, it still somehow managed to earn almost $257 million at the worldwide box office on a paltry $6.5 million budget.  So, if you were the beneficiary of that success, you’d make another one, too.

The producers over at Warner Brothers decided to go another route, however, and deliver a prequel to that first film, just as Universal recently did with its Ouija franchise.  That prequel, Ouija: Origins of Evil, was a fantastic horror film that ultimately earned less money than its far inferior predecessor, a victim of an unforgiving audience.  On at least one of those counts, Annabelle: Creation is following the same path, whereas it’s still too early to know for sure about the other.


When a nun and the orphans in her care are expelled by the closing of their orphanage, they find a home with a couple who are struggling to cope with the death of their young daughter from over a decade past.  The father of that young girl is also a dollmaker who created – you guessed it – Annabelle.  Whereas the Conjuring films are adapted from the real-life case files of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (I feel like I’ve typed that description so often in my life that I’m not entirely sure it’s my own wording, anymore.  I’m keeping it the way it is, though.), this particular film is a purely fictionalized account of the genesis of the famed Annabelle doll.  In reality, Annabelle was actually a Raggedy Ann doll, not the product of an independent dollmaker.

So, knowing that this film isn’t purportedly based on factual occurrences may take a little bit of the luster off, but it shouldn’t really matter all that much.  It’s a solid story that surprises in all the right places.  As in the Conjuring films, the focus is on the characterization and narrative, with the scares being augmented by our investment in the cast.  One would have to be of rather questionable character in order to root for the demise of a sweet young orphaned girl who has been hobbled by polio.  So, yeah, maybe the script stacks the deck and perhaps even panders a bit in order to elicit the desired sympathy.  But since I’m sure most of you have complained at one point or another about the tendency of horror films to feature unlikable characters who you want to see dead, this should be a refreshing change (unless you’re already a fan of the Conjuring franchise – as you should be – in which case, this is just one of many areas in which the series almost always excels).

Annabelle 2

As the film builds, the menace creeps in, a bit at a time.  It all crescendos in a climax bursting with imaginative and terrifying visuals buried within excellently-timed examples of both jump scares and suspense horror.  The film goes out of its way to offer up a haunting that manifests in ways unlike anything that has been done in film before (mostly, at least).

The marketing for the film has featured a quote (from a critic whose name I didn’t catch, so my apologies) that states that Annabelle: Creation is “one of the best films in the Conjuring universe”.  That may be a slight paraphrase, but that was the idea.  Using basic logic, that would make Annabelle: Creation the second-best film when comparing it to the two Conjuring films and the original Annabelle.  If it was the best, that would have been stated outright.  If it was in the bottom two, that would not make it one of the best”.  So, since there are exactly four films in the series, that only leaves one spot according to that particular critic.


I agree that it’s significantly better that the original Annabelle, if for no other reason than I suspect it made more of an impression on me and I’ll remember more specifics of the film after time has passed.  But Creation is nowhere near the quality of the two Conjuring films.  Those films have infinitely more heart and weight, largely due to the presence of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who have a combustible chemistry and, when paired, create an unbeatable and intangible It Factor that can’t be replicated on demand.  Plus, those films do have the aforementioned added attraction of being based on true stories.

But that doesn’t mean that Annabelle: Creation isn’t good or worth seeing for horror buffs.  I just suggest that one not go in expecting it to measure up to either Conjuring film, since those movies are near-perfect classics and those would be unfair expectations.  Still, Annabelle: Creation is an above-average supernatural thriller with some fun and disturbing visuals and many genuinely unnerving moments.  It’s not one of the best horror films ever, but it’s a worthwhile entry and a fun horror movie to hold us over until It drops in just a few weeks.

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Review – Annabelle: Creation