A coming-of-age teen rom com with a queer twist. The Half of It directed by Alice Wu, features the story of a queer, Chinese-American teen from a small town called Squahamish.
The main character Ellie Chu, played by Leah Lewis, appears to be stereotypically Asian American. Chu is the studious, shy kid, born of immigrant parents who now live in the predominantly White Squahamish. Wu introduces Paul Musky, who is a sweet, but oafish, football player. Musky befireds Chu in hopes of helping him write a letter to Aster Flores, the beautiful, intelligent, “popular” girl. Chu is hesitant due to her own romantic interest but agrees to help, which only leads her to fall deeper.
From the plot description, it seems to be another cringy, coming-of-age, romantic comedy–and that’s not entirely wrong. When I first watched The Half of It I thought it was a wonderful movie with a great story, but as I rewatched it a couple of times it became clearer that the plot had holes in it, the writing was cliched at times, and some scenes dragged while others felt notaby rushed.
One of the main problems I had with this film is the character’s development. Aster Flores is the main love interest and yet we rarely see her on screen and we see no character development right until the very end. The other character’s are also very bland, it seems like they only have one personality trait and stuck with it the entire film.
I do give this film credit because of the cinematography. The film does a good job making the audience feel warm and homey. Most of the shots only contain one or two people with a vast background. The warmth and the loneliness play well with Ellie Chu’s existence in Squahamish. Along with the cinematography other things the film does well is the monologues. Although the writing between characters can come off as awkward, Ellie Chu’s monologue between each act is beautiful and very calming.
The Half of It also provides the viewers with a twist some people may not have seen. At the surface this film contains a love triangle, the nerdy girl, the popular girl, and the jock. The jock crushes on the popular girl and suddenly falls in love with the nerdy girl, and to an extent this is what happened until something that doesn’t follow the cliche happens.
What intrigues me to watch The Half of It was mainly because of the representation. Queer representation is hard to come by but any POC queer representation is harder to find. Asian-American representation is already hard to see in Hollywood and adding a queer element to the equation is virtually unheard of. Interestingly, though, Alice Wu also directed the film Saving Face which also is a queer Asian-American film that came out in 2004.
Personally I have never seen a queer Asian-American film until this one, which is the main factor of why I can overlook the occasionally corny writing and characters. The Half of It is not my favorite movie, but because it looks so different, I can’t help not liking it.