In Netflix's 'The Half Of It,' A Queer Asian Teen Finds Truth Amid Wild Love Triangle

Written by on May 1, 2020

Anybody anticipating “The Half of It” to finish with the romantic union of comely, hormone-crazed teenagers can have their hopes dashed in lower than 5 minutes. 

“In case you haven’t guessed, this isn’t a love story,” the protagonist proclaims in a voiceover at first of the movie, which hits Netflix on Friday. “Or not one the place anybody will get what they need.”

As the road implies, “The Half of It” has forward-thinking aspirations that set it aside from conventional teen fare. Nonetheless, it isn’t afraid to wink at its predecessors. Like “Clueless” and “Straightforward A,” it riffs on a traditional textual content ― on this case, the 1897 French play “Cyrano de Bergerac” ― and transplants up to date variations of its supply materials’s characters into a contemporary highschool for comedic impact.  

It provides us a relatable, if difficult, heroine, too. “The Half of It” follows Ellie Chu (performed by Leah Lewis), a bookish teen being raised by a widowed father (Collin Chou) within the Pacific Northwest who ghostwrites her classmates’ time period papers when she’s not dodging anti-Asian epithets. When bumbling jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) discovers Ellie’s approach with phrases, he asks her to assist him woo the beautiful and well-liked Aster (Alexxis Lemire) by way of handwritten letters and messaging apps.

However as soon as Ellie begins speaking with Aster as “Paul,” she, too, begins to harbor emotions for her feminine classmate.  

From left: "The Half of It" stars Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer and Collin Chou. The movie hits Netflix on Friday.

From left: “The Half of It” stars Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer and Collin Chou. The film hits Netflix on Friday.

Although author and director Alice Wu didn’t intend for “The Half of It” to debut amid the coronavirus disaster, the film’s deal with an Asian American protagonist ― significantly one who receives racist bullying ― feels topical. Cities the world over have reported a troubling surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and different types of discrimination associated to COVID-19. 

A California native, Wu additionally drew from her expertise as a lesbian within the Asian American neighborhood for her 2005 debut function, “Saving Face.” Starring Michelle Krusiec, “Saving Face” screened on the Sundance Movie Pageant and earned respectable opinions. Nonetheless, Wu spent years after the movie’s launch in short-term writing gigs earlier than setting her cinematic ambitions apart and relocating to San Francisco. 

She couldn’t escape her creative inklings completely, and developed an overview for what would grow to be “The Half of It” in her head. Shortly after the 2016 election, she wrote a private verify for $1,000 to the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation ― a company she staunchly opposes ― and gave it to a buddy, who promised to mail it if a primary draft of the screenplay wasn’t accomplished in 5 weeks. It turned out to be an efficient solution to maintain herself to a deadline, and he or she managed to forgo the dreaded donation by ending her script.

“The Half of It,” nevertheless, would proceed to evolve in its specifics. Although Wu had initially written Ellie, Paul and Aster as characters of their mid-20s, she instructed HuffPost she reimagined them as highschool college students who had been “not self-actualized in a whole lot of methods,” but “taking steps towards their future.” 

“Excessive colleges, not less than most excessive colleges within the nation, are the one place the place you may get folks from all kinds of backgrounds,” she mentioned. “As an grownup, that doesn’t occur anymore. We’re all in our personal bubbles of our selecting, and it’s somewhat more durable to get shaken out of it.” 

"Seeing an Asian-American be a lead, and also seeing someone who is a non-conventional hero, really appealed to me," Lewis (l

“Seeing an Asian-American be a lead, and likewise seeing somebody who’s a non-conventional hero, actually appealed to me,” Lewis (left, with Alexxis Lemire) mentioned.  

Like “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “The Half of It” presents its central trio of characters as factors on a romantic triangle. Nonetheless, Wu wished her movie to be mild on sentimentality. 

“Our society exalts romantic love,” she mentioned. “That’s great, however I believe there may be room to say that deep friendship that doesn’t have intercourse anyplace in it can be the very best pinnacle of affection.”

Lewis, greatest identified for The CW’s “Nancy Drew,” immediately cherished the script. 

“Seeing an Asian American be a lead, and likewise seeing somebody who’s a nonconventional hero, actually appealed to me,” she mentioned. “I used to be blown away by the coming-of-age, feminine sexuality facet. As we develop up, we watch these rom-coms, we learn books the place the man will get the woman, woman will get the man and tra-la-la, and that’s not all the time the way it ends for folks. Friendship is love. It’s essential, and that’s such an enormous win.” 

Hollywood has grow to be extra inclusive of LGBTQ narratives lately, because of motion pictures like “Love, Simon” and Ryan Murphy’s ever-expanding universe of queer TV characters. By comparability, Wu’s movie doesn’t villainize conventional or conservative views (Paul is frank about his Christian religion) and opts out of getting Ellie determine with any particular label. 

Though "The Half of It" follows a female protagonist who develops feelings for another girl, the movie is "not a coming out s

Although “The Half of It” follows a feminine protagonist who develops emotions for an additional woman, the film is “not a popping out story,” Lewis (left) mentioned. 

“Alice made it very clear that this was not a coming-out story,” Lewis recalled. “However it’s undoubtedly a discovery story. That’s how I sort of internalized it. We by no means see Ellie truly say, ‘I’m this or that.’ There aren’t a whole lot of tales which are instructed concerning the starting of these emotions and discovering that.” 

Early response to “The Half of It” has been encouraging. Rolling Stone praised the film for “undercutting Hollywood system,” whereas The Hollywood Reporter referred to as it “good, charming and endlessly refreshing.” On Wednesday, the movie obtained the 2020 Tribeca Movie Pageant Award for Finest Narrative Characteristic in a digital ceremony. 

Each Lewis and Wu imagine the impression of “The Half of It” lies past vital accolades. 

For her half, Lewis mentioned the film has the potential to “incite a way of unity and understanding” throughout a fractured political local weather, with viewers coming away with “a brand new sense of how they have a look at love.” 

“Anytime you’ll be able to enhance the capability for empathy ― that’s the purpose,” Wu added. “If I can get a 45-year-old straight white conservative man from the Heartland to determine with a 17-year-old closeted immigrant woman, I’ve achieved my job.” 

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