THE HALF OF IT
The Half of It is an adorable coming-of-age comedy-drama from Netflix about a high school senior dealing with her last year at home and starting to discover herself. Written and directed by Alice Wu, whose first movie Saving Face – done 15-years ago – was her own story about coming out in the Chinese American community. The Half of It is a similar story only earlier in her development, way before coming out.
Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) lives with her father in the small rural fictitious town of Squahamish outside Seattle, Washington. The actual film location is in a few small towns, about 2 hours north of New York City.
The loner Ellie earns money by writing papers for her fellow students. Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) asks Ellie to write a love letter to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), a girl that Ellie is also secretly crushing on. So begins an enjoyable journey of self-discovery not just for Ellie but also for Paul and Aster.
It is easy getting lost in the developing friendship of Ellie and Paul and the conflicts with Aster. If you don’t dig too deep, it is a fast-moving story with several enjoyable storylines and likable characters.
However, the reason it moves so fast is that the 17-year old Ellie is not acting 17. The way she thinks and acts and the philosophers she is quoting is actually from the mind of the 50-year old Alice Wu, who wrote the movie. If The Half of It was a story about a 50-year old Asian American working in an all-white company – instead of attending an all-white high school – it would be more believable. Ellie is smart, but her wisdom does not fit her age.
Some of the stunts to fool Aster into thinking Paul is a deep thinker would not have worked. These dates between Paul and Aster are entertaining; just don’t think too hard. I guess they are assuming Aster does not think at all when Ellie and Paul are deceiving her into thinking Paul is full of wisdom.
Trying to find some good, The Half of It did briefly touch on the problems with being Asian American in rural America. At least problems for her father, Edwin Chou (Collin Chou). Ellie’s father, even though having a Ph.D. from China, could not be promoted on account of the language issues. I did not see Ellie suffering very much, at least not more than everyone suffers in high school. She is a cheater, writing essay papers for fellow students. A teacher allows Ellie to continue cheating to keep the grade point average of the class high. She makes over $100 per class essay assignment. Ellie also has a part-time job in her backyard at a train crossing. Ellie should have just taken Aster out for a nice expensive dinner.
The Half of It is an adorable coming of age comedy-drama from Netflix. The film will help you pass the time quickly and not be offensive but won’t be too memorable either.