Movie Review: The Half of It
It seems as though Netflix can only offer up two different varieties of film. Off-the-beat, forgettable comedies and soppy romcoms set in the American school system. Sometimes the two collide into each other, a sprawling mess of ideas and symbolism are strewn into their works without much care for what happens to the finished product. The Half of It is one of the more creatively moving pieces to come out of this muddled array of similarities, but it still suffers from the many predictable tropes it looks to shoehorn into its simplistic story.
Our love triangle trio are comprised of Ellie (Leah Lewis), Paul (Daniel Diemer) and Aster (Alexxis Lemire). They bring absolutely nothing new to the table. Lewis is perhaps the most capable of the trio, but is slung some of the more cringe-inducing scenes. Following the predictable pathway of romance, she fights for the affection of Aster, all the while shadow-writing love notes for Paul, a man of few words and fewer brain cells. Most of the moments Ellie and Paul share as they build their plan to win the affection of Aster are completely foundation level stuff. The “wow, aren’t they quirky” pangs of insanity ring clear throughout a script from director Alice Wu. I don’t think there’s a moment throughout where the “taco sausage” joke is utilised in a way that doesn’t scream benevolent idiocy.
Most of the supporting characters are equally as dense. Trig Carson (Wolfgang Novogratz) graces us with a performance that feels both incredibly underprepared but also entirely out of place. He’s the usual jock character, devoid of brain yet liked by just about every character in the film. We also receive the one teacher who cares for our lead character. In less obnoxious, more mainstream films, this role is filled by the likes of Paul Rudd or Woody Harrelson, but here is filled in by Becky Ann Baker. She gives a fine performance, her few scenes offer up nothing, and she’s not actually in the film long enough to make much of an impact. In turn, this makes her the best character in the movie.
There is a lack of poise to the overall messaging of the film. Its deconstruction of religious upbringings, sexuality and unexpected friendships are crammed into cliché and never have room to grow. It’s all by the books, a messy scenario following underwhelming set pieces. The direction is flat, very expected of the Netflix variety of film, like a Hallmark Christmas comedy where there’s nothing of interest behind or in front of the camera. Netflix are becoming more and more reliant on that style of filmmaking. Interchangeable characters within a vaguely similar style to that of the popular coming of age trends. It’s starting to become rather grating to say the least.
Films like The Half of It miss the mark of reality, which would certainly be fair if it weren’t for how bland the film becomes with its caricatures and stereotypes of American school culture. I assume being from Britain makes for one of the many reasons I fail to connect to this soppy mess. Perhaps if it were a competent romantic piece then it’d be at least worth the watch, but the glossy faces and empty husks that we attach ourselves with for the proceeding two hours are nowhere close to the standard needed to make this an engaging piece. Feeling more and more like a film created by adults who assume that “this is how the teenagers do it”, The Half of It falls to the meddling’s of older generations, providing nothing new or anything that so much as resembles interesting moments.
It’s an empty film. Shallow and neutered, with no real interesting points to make or moments to think about. A completely standard piece of film, insipid from beginning to end and without rhyme or reason to just about any single one of its decisions. Uninspired from beginning to end, without so much as a relatively engaging moment in-between.