Title: The Half of It
Year Released: 2020
Screenwriter: Alice Wu
Director: Alice Wu
Producer: Anthony Bregman
Network Found On: Netflix
Cast: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire, Wolfgang Novogratz,, Collin Chou, Becky Ann Baker, Macintyre Dixon, Enrique Murciano, and Catherine Curtin
Genre/Format of the Item: Movie
2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature
Nominated for a 2021 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film
Reading Level/Interest Level:
Plot Summary: Ellie Chu is the class genius but doesn’t have a lot of friends at her high school in the little town of Squahamish, Washington. When Paul, the school’s football star, comes to Ellie for help writing a love letter, Ellie refuses. When Paul offers to pay Ellie, she reconsiders and the triangle love affair of Paul, Ellie, and Aster begins. Ellie and Aster begin writing letters back and forth and forming almost an instant bond, except for the fact that Aster thinks that she is receiving and writing letters to Paul. As Paul and Aster begin dating, Ellie realizes that she has feelings for Aster, but doesn’t want to come in-between her two friends. Meanwhile, Paul is slowly falling for Ellie. In a climactic scene, Aster’s old boyfriend proposes to her in church and Ellie makes a public announcement about how Aster might have other desires. Aster and Paul don’t really know how to react to Ellie’s crush on Aster. Paul slowly comes to the realization that love comes in many forms and he comes to terms with loving Ellie as a friend. Aster and Ellie exchange a kiss and Ellie realizes that the life that she wants may just be beginning.
Author Background: Alice Wu graduated with a Bachelors in Computer Sciences from MIT and a Masters in Computer Sciences from Stanford University. Wu was a software designer at Microsoft but left to pursue a career in film. Wu’s first film Saving Face won the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) screenwriting award (IMDb, n.d.) . Saving Face was released in 2004. After her first film, she left the industry to take care of her sick mother and focus on her family. She also began doing improv comedy as a hobby. She began to refocus on her screenwriting and in 2017 Netflix began production of The Half of It (Erbland, 2020).
Critical Evaluations: The movie was very well done. The movie did not have any special effects or creative elements, but the filming was smooth, and the movie followed a logical sequence of events. The cinematography fit the movie premise perfectly. The setting was beautiful, and the characters were well-developed. There were awkward moments with the characters, but it seemed intentional and meant to portray the awkward moments of being a teenager. Overall, I liked the movie. I think that it dealt with homosexuality in a positive way. Although Paul’s first instinct when he finds out that Ellie is gay is that she is going to hell, he takes the time to research the topic and come to a different conclusion. He later states the love comes in many forms and it is implied that he comes to realize that he and Ellie can love each other as friends. It was a relatively simple movie without any dramatic events (aside from the climactic scene referenced earlier) and yet it felt like a secret window into the lives of the characters as they navigate high school and their complicated feelings. The movie had some diversity (the main character was Chinese American) but the main redeeming value was watching the inner growth of the characters. I think that teenagers will be able to relate to the characters and the plot line.
Creative Use for a Library Program: The movie could be used as a movie selection for a teen movie night as a summer reading programming event. The movie could be shown in a large community room with the option of snacks available and possibly a book display about romance novels.
Speedround/Book Trailer: The simple story of boy meets girl takes on a twist in the movie The Half of It. Paul secretly loves Aster. Ellie also secretly loves Aster. Aster falls in love with the letters she thinks are from Paul but are really from Ellie. Paul starts to fall for Ellie. And this is only just the beginning of a sweet love story that will leave you smiling and hoping for more!
Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This movie may be challenged for its portrayal of a religious teen who has a change of heart regarding his teaching that homosexuality will lead a person to the devil. There may also be challenges regarding the homosexual content or the scene of two girls swimming closely in a lake. I would defend this as a library appropriate movie by stating that the library does not abide by the teachings of any religion. I would say that there are no sex scenes just a few scenes with teenagers kissing. There is a scene with teenagers drinking, but Paul notices that Ellie is drinking too much and drives her safely home and does not take advantage of her.
Reason for Inclusion: I chose to include this movie in my collection because I thought that it was a sweet, simple movie that dealt with complicated issues with sensitivity and tact. I liked that the characters were relatable to most teens. This movie doesn’t need special effects to make an impact on its audience. I think that many teens will appreciate the subject matter and the romantic content.
Cinema & Social Justice [@CinemaJustice]. (2022, June 18). The Half of It (2020) dir Alice Wu @Cinema Justice #FilmTwitter#PrideMonth [Tweet].Twitter. https://twitter.com/CinemaJustice/status/1538114308453847043
Erbland, K. (2020, April 29). Alice Wu Made a Fresh, Queer Love Story in ‘Saving Face,’ So Why Did a Follow-Up Take 16 Years? https://www.indiewire.com/2020/04/alice-wu-saving-face-follow-up-the-half-of-it-netflix-1202227619/
IMDb (Natasha). (n.d.). Alice Wu Biography. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1226108/
Netflix. (2020, April 9). The half of it: Official Netflix trailer [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-yhF7IScUE