Netflix Needs More Rom-Coms Like “The Half of It”

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KC Bailey

Leah Lewis and Alexxis Lemire in Netflix’s new teenage rom-com “The Half of It.”

Netflix’s new coming-of-age film “The Half of It,” directed by Alice Wu, needs to be celebrated for its honest take on high school friendships, Chinese-American identity and most importantly, what it means to be queer. 

“The Half of It” is full of authenticity and heart as the school outcast Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) secretly writes love letters on behalf of high school jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) to send to his crush, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). Ellie takes up the offer because while she does need money to make ends neat for her struggling Chinese immigrant father, she is also attracted to Aster, causing your classic love triangle with an LGBTQ+ twist. 

Off the bat, this may sound like your typical teenage romantic comedy that Netflix so often produces, but “The Half of It” excels at challenging the troupes of its genre. While this movie does have a “nerd” and “jock” lead with some awkward moments, it’s still insightful, deep and optimistic. There’s no physical makeovers to make a character more attractive, first kisses don’t happen in the pouring rain, and not every character is heterosexual and white. 

What “The Half of It” has is a sincere story where Ellie’s sexuality and the hardships of her dad’s integration in the United States isn’t a taboo. Her sexual and cultural identity isn’t some major turning point in the film that other characters are surprised at and this is the representation that rom-coms need. More characters like Ellie deserve to be at the forefront of movies like this instead of just in the background. 

However, there is one scene in a church that disrupts the natural pacing of the film where both Paul and Ellie clash over their love for Aster. “The Half of It” has its moments, but this does not taint the authenticity of the rest of the film. 

 

                                                                          KC Bailey Leah Lewis and “The Half of It” director Alice Wu on set.

What is also great about this Netflix movie is the refreshing platonic relationship between Ellie and Paul. Their unexpected friendship is full of sweet moments such as Paul defending Ellie from the other guys calling her names and a pure scene where Paul bonds with Ellie’s dad while making dinner. Although their friendship is originally formed because of a favor, their relationship progresses to be one where they learn and grow from each other. 

The young actors are all phenomenal in their roles and bring great life to their characters which makes the movie so much more joyful to watch even during the few awkward moments. Lewis shines as Ellie and is well supported by Diemer and Limire in their respective roles. In short, these rising actors are the ones to watch.

Netflix often seems to rotate its cast for teen flicks such as Noah Centineo starring in both “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.” It’s a treat that a new, fresh-faced cast was introduced. This young group of actors broke up the monotony of Netflix’s young adult movies which made it all the more entertaining while still remaining heartfelt. 

“The Half of It” is so much more mature and compelling than its counterparts and it’s time for more poignant stories like this in the teen movie genre. A rom-com doesn’t only have to be about changing yourself in order to win a date with your crush, but also realizing your self worth and growing as a person. A crush isn’t the only person that demands love, but also your family and your friends and Ellie shows this in all of her relationships even though there is your classic kissing scene at the end. 

Netflix may have so many other rom-coms to watch, but please don’t skip over this one the next time you’re browsing. It deserves all of the praise, but also demands another half.