Another week and another Netflix original film have entered the film world – but The Half of It (2020), written and directed by Alice Wu, isn’t one to skip over. Featuring mostly new talent with no major names attached to the project, The Half of It features a modern take on the rom-com (a genre that this writer has proclaimed to be a major sucker for plenty of times) with new talent that seem to all have tons of potential. The characters are charming, the humor is genuine, and the drama is grounded and is mature. Wu subverts many of the genre tropes and tells a character story about relationships that seems unbelievably real.
Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) makes extra money writing other people’s essays in order to help support her and her father. She’s in need of a little more money, which is why she agrees to help the jock with a heart, Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), write a letter to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) explaining his feelings for her. Ellie gets more invested in this process for a multitude of reasons…the most shocking of which is that she finds herself having similar feelings for Aster.
The relationships in this movie just work. Paul is adorable and noble. He immediately views Ellie as a friend. It takes her a little longer to come to trust Paul, but the dynamic between them is so endearing. Aster is given so much agency and her own story that depicts the struggles of tradition placed on her by her father and how that affects her own happiness. There is so much in this film to love and appreciate. It’s an indie gem on a major streaming service that is accessible to general audiences while being undeniably progressive.
The Duff (2015) did this thing where the trademark “misunderstanding” moment of this genre that will drive a wedge between the love interests that could be easily explained is ACTUALLY EXPLAINED. A simple conversation solves a problem that other movies would have milked for an entire act. The Half of It has several moments that remind me of that one moment that made me a fan of The Duff. Ellie, Paul, and Aster have several moments that could fall into the traditional tropes. In fact, the most surprising element in the film is how most of the school is willing to not be stereotypical assholes that we find in high school movies so frequently. There are a few bullies for Ellie, but not everybody. They seem disinterested in her talent show performance but are also able to be won over. She isn’t constantly bullied or hated by everyone in the school. The world just feels so much more grounded than many of its predecessors that it was refreshing.
The Half of It is simply a solid movie. Please watch it, and let Netflix know that there is an audience for quality movies. If you liked The Kissing Booth…this movie is better by leaps and bounds. Everything that was wrong with the Kissing Booth is addressed here and breathes hope into the frequent Netflix genre. The Half of It earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.