It’s refreshing to see a film that not only spotlights a queer Asian American woman but also treats her with such respect and tenderness.
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Written and directed with tart intelligence by Alice Wu, and featuring some dazzling breakout performances, this breezy, self-aware and utterly adorable coming-of-age tale keeps one eye on literary and cinematic classics, and the other firmly on a future full of exploration, self-expression and buoyant expectation.
The film is also weighed down with a hokey record-scratch moment, a triumphant big-game sequence and a church-set finale that seems to be aping "The Graduate" but doesn’t quite have the courage to fully embrace the comedy of the moment.
The Half of It is a strong, warm-hearted and quietly progressive addition to the expanding Netflix teen movie pack which treats its target audience with the respect they deserve.
Although The Half Of It mostly sticks to what’s swiftly becoming the Netflix teen rom-com house style (moody amber lighting, Wes Anderson-inspired framing, and nostalgia for John Hughes’ oeuvre), Wu creates several compellingly original images as well.
The Half of It has lofty aims for its version of the classic tale — which it mostly achieves, albeit without much fanfare.
Wu is confident enough to make the bold strokes her characters speak of and craft a movie that’s comfortably different.
The Half of It puts a queer YA spin on a classic romance story, but Wu makes it her own - delivering a charming, sweet and altogether heartfelt movie.
It’s also made fresh by the myriad literary and cinematic references Wu weaves into Aster’s correspondence with “Paul.” With its slightly nerdy, play-on-wordy title, The Half of It alludes to the ancient Greek belief that two-faced humans were separated by the gods, devoting their lives to finding their lost soulmates (if you like the idea, read Plato’s “Symposium,” or check out “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”).
The lead performers put it over, with Lewis very appealing as Ellie. She plays this small, fierce character as comfortable in her social invisibility yet increasingly exasperated by the insularity and ethnic slurs of her small town.