4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2018; PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, profanity and teen partying; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: Commentary by Director Greg Berlanti, Producer Isaac Klausner and Co-writer Isaac Aptaker
SIMON SPIER, 17, has it all. A great family he loves, who loves him back, and terrific friends. He’s smart, kind and well-liked in school and his neighborhood.
But Simon also has a secret: he’s gay. He’s known he was gay since he was 13-years-old, and despite all signs to the contrary, worries just like any gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth whether his good life will disappear if he comes out.
Simon’s got a lot to lose and, in the groundbreaking film directed by Greg Berlanti, known for his hit superhero series “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Black Lightning” on The CW, he worries over the pros and cons of his situation. Based on the award-winning “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, Berlanti, co-writers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, co-showrunners for “This is Us,” includes all manner of high school students in “Love, Simon’s” identity conflict. It’s not just LGBTQ youth who wonder how they “fit” in society; everyone does.
“We just loved that it’s a really specific personal story of this one kid, Simon, but also at the same time is this incredibly universal story that’s really about something that we all go through as people, which is figuring out who we are, and being brave enough to introduce our true selves to the world,” Aptaker says in “The Adaptation,” one of eight bonus features on the presentation from Fox Home Entertainment.
“I did not imagine my book would be successful or be a movie. I didn’t even think it would be published.” — Becky Albertalli, author
In commentary and other bonus features, Berlanti, the filmmakers and cast members say they hope their gay rom-com has the same impact as John Hughe’s young adult movies such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Pretty in Pink.” Berlanti points out “This is my ‘Bueller’ scene,” as comparisons are made. “Love, Simon” is a bonafide success with a 92 percent critics’ rating; 89 audience score at rottentomatoes.com. It’s good natured and predictable, but, like Hughes’ films, “Love, Simon” brings the laughs and the tears and is totally unforgettable.
In his opening voiceover, Simon – played by Nick Robinson, the older brother in “Jurassic World” (2015) – talks about coming out to his parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and friends. Although he’s sure they’d be supportive, he worries how it will change things. Then another student, under the alias of “Blue,” writes on the school message board that he, too, is gay and closeted. Simon, under the penname of “Jacques,” begins a correspondence with him.
Throughout the film, Simon speculates about Blue’s identity, imagining him as different students. Then their correspondence is discovered – and photographed – by another student, Martin (Logan Miller), who has a crush on one of Simon’s friends, Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Martin blackmails Simon into helping him pursue a relationship with her by threatening to post the letters. In a frenzy to keep his identity and possible relationship with Blue quiet, Simon agrees to Martin’s demands.
This does not turn out well for anyone involved. Simon not only gets “outted” but has to deal with the lies he told friends to set up Martin’s fantasy. This is where the tears start falling. Still, by the end scene, everything falls into place like it does in every Hughes’ movie, and we’re left feeling better about the characters and ourselves.
Daily life, fantasy sequences, and a big musical number look great on 1080p (2.39:1 ratio), while the 2160p 4K Ultra Blu-ray provides enhanced color and finer detail. Much of the story is told through email, legible in both formats. For those who read the book, there are lots of Easter eggs to be found in Simon’s room, and are much easier to pick up in the 4K picture. It’s great to see a film that does not rely on CGI get the super high-def treatment. It makes a good difference.
“Love, Simon” relies on dialogue, ambient sound and score to tell its story, and the 6 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on Blu-ray and 4K carries it well. Dialogue is clearly represented from whisper to shout. The original score is by Rob Simonsen (“The Age of Adaline, 2015; “Foxcatcher,” 2014) and includes a variety of pop tunes by Brenton Wood, “The Oogum Boogum Song”; Bleachers, “Rollercoaster”: The 1975, “Love Me”; Warrant, “Heaven”; Meghan Trainor, “NO”; DJ Shadow, “Nobody Speak”; and Jackson 5, “Someday at Christmas.” We note in Simon’s room that he prefers vinyl.
Thank you Fox and Berlanti for skipping the gag/blooper reel, seldom funny to anyone other than cast, crew and filmmakers. (Yes, there are exceptions, but they’re rare.) There are two good deleted scenes, and an excellent commentary from Berlanti, Aptaker and Producer Isaac Klausner.
The bonus features are short, but good and well worth the time. “The Adaptation” is a book-to-film discussion with Berlanti, filmmakers, cast and author Becky Albertalli. “The Squad” centers on Simon and his friends, with cast interviews. “Dear Georgia” and “Dear Atlanta” explores the filming location, which is also the setting of the book and Albertalli’s home town. A gallery of stills can be viewed via manual or auto advance.
As a gay man, Berlanti brings nuance to the narrative through his own personal experience. It also allowed freedom to improvise during filming. “‘Simon’ is a coming-of-age story, so in that sense it’s really traditional. But in another sense it’s not, in that there hasn’t been a major studio film with a gay lead at the center of a coming-of-age movie,” he says in “The Adaptation.”
Just see it! There’s not a wrong note in the entire cast from teen to adult. There’s never been a story like this onscreen before. Kudos to Berlanti, his cast and Fox Entertainment for bringing it out.
— Kay Reynolds