Netflix giveth and Netflix taketh. For every promising action movie with a lot of energy, we’re also going to get a half-baked teen romance movie that probably wouldn’t have ever made it to theaters.
On the one hand, I have to applaud Netflix for letting a movie like “The Half of It” happen, because surely this was a passion project for writer/director Alice Wu, and surely it couldn’t exist anywhere but on Netflix.
On the other hand, as writer and director, Wu could have done a lot more to make her movie something special that really holds together.
As it stands, “The Half of It” is a fine little film with a really fun cast, but it fails to hold together under even the barest scrutiny. This indie film was released on Netflix earlier this month, one of the only places in the world to find new movies.
Ellie Chu is a Chinese immigrant outcast trying to survive high school in the small town of Squahamish. She makes a little extra money to support her family by charging other students to do their homework for them. When dopey jock Paul hires her to write love letters to the girl of his dreams, Ellie begins to fall for the girl herself.
So “The Half of It” is a classic “Cyrano de Bergerac” story, albeit with modern twists. And to a large extent, it works. The story is simple and fun, the cast is excellent and I really like a lot of the modern elements. But the movie never rises above simply being watchable.
Obviously, the biggest modern twist is the LGBTQ plotline and I am 100% in favor of that type of story getting more attention. Not only that, but it’s an LGBTQ love story with an Asian main character, so the movie succeeds on bringing diverse characters to the forefront. I applaud the film for that.
The problem with “The Half of It” is that almost everything in the movie feels half-baked. There are so many elements to this movie that just aren’t explored enough to really land as a whole. There’s the LGBTQ storyline, the friendship storyline, the depressed dad storyline, the church storyline, the immigrant storyline, the football storyline, the talent show storyline; none of them are as well-constructed as they could be, and it detracts from the movie as a whole.
It feels like writer/director Alice Wu should have spent a little more time polishing her script to really sort out some of the plot holes and tighten up some of the messages.
We don’t get very many new movies these days, and Netflix is one of our only options for new content. But sometimes a movie like “The Half of It” comes along and you’re reminded why some films go straight to Netflix in the first place.