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New Films: Love, Simon and Tomb Raider

Love, Simon
Directed by Greg Berlanti

“Love, Simon” is a film I was predisposed to like – a coming of age story about a closeted gay teenager who finds himself chatting via social media with another kid in the same boat – but whose identity is unknown other than that they go to the same school. It’s poignant, timely and has an air of mystery about it, as Simon (Nick Robinson) tries to determine who his secret friend is, while maintaining his own anonymity.

It’s very well acted, especially by Robinson, who manages to convey good looks and charm while still appearing drawn and burdened by the secret he hasn’t shared with either closest friends or family. And the supporting cast is similarly appealing with his parents played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel – a couple who are both understanding and open minded, and yet cluelessly prone to undermining Simon’s confidence at the same time.

And yet I find myself giving the film a somewhat qualified recommendation as there are aspects that some may find bothersome, including at least a couple that took me out of the moment a few times.

One is simply a part of Simon’s character, as depicted on screen – and I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how much of this is original to the story and how much is in the adaptation. Simon is the central focus and the story relies on us feeling for him and rooting for his success. But, he also does some fairly unpleasant things to his friends, albeit not by choice, and there’s the risk that these acts could undermine his likeability. This is, perhaps, largely unfair given the motivations, but he’s not the perfectly pleasant victim of circumstance. Alternatively, this may make him more relatable for some viewers.

I was more bothered by two other aspects of the film. It’s the second or third recent film, another being “The 15:17 to Paris,” that depict school teachers as one or at most two dimensional stereotypes, with at least one character here being inappropriate to the point of being borderline unemployable. And when we see Simon pondering who his secret crush is, we see his mental images of various other characters writing back to him and behaving in keeping with his fantasies. But that’s a device often employed in film when a true identity or backstory is being revealed, whereas here it represents his mental wanderings and conjecture. Still, the ultimate reveal feels somewhat arbitrary as each of the guys he thinks about seems to be a similarly good fit. It’s similar to a murder mystery that keeps every suspect in play so successfully that it feels as though any one of them could have done it and nothing really pointed to one over another.

However, I still enjoyed it, just not as much as I had hoped. The other thing I’ve been enjoying are the posters and publicity materials, some of which are quite creative. In one relatively local campaign, large posters display the message “Dear San Francisco, I’m straight, like Lombard Street. Love, Simon.”

Moviebrief

Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft in the latest attempt to bring the “Tomb Raider” video game franchise to the big screen. And it’s another example of that effort that doesn’t work.

A major part of the problem is that it takes approximately 75 minutes of a 118 minute film before Croft is seen to do anything especially Crofty and we don’t get to see much of anything that makes it seem like she’s likely to succeed. She’s trying to track down what happened to her father, a wealthy explorer who was in search of a mystical tomb on an island off the coast of Japan, despite his explicit instructions not to.

It’s a bit reminiscent of “Brave,” a mis-named story about a young woman who breaks the rules and then has to dig herself out of the corner she’s painted herself into. And it’s a film that shows her in so many situations where physics alone should have killed her, or at least pummeled her to a bruised pulp, with at least three scenes in which she runs or scrambles across a surface that’s falling away beneath her – something that’s played out the first time it happens, and simply tiresome when it repeats itself. “Tomb Raider” is a film that makes the “National Treasure” films seem less awful – which is more than Nicolas Cage could manage.

New Films: Love, Simon and Tomb Raider via @sacramentopress

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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