The latest YA rom-com movie on Netflix, “The Half of It”, offers a smart and queer rendering of the classic “Cyrano de Bergerac” tale in a story that features interracial friendship and flirtation, along with the challenges that face many Asian American families.
The movie’s “Cyrano” is Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a Chinese American high-school student who has parlayed her brilliance into a side hustle writing papers for her peers. She’s also a closeted lesbian, and remains shyly distant from other students (some of whom mock her with racist epithets as she bikes home), apart from taking their cash for homework. So of course, when Paul, the inarticulate but lovable oaf of a white jock (Daniel Diemer), has a crush on the high school’s “it” girl Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), he goes straight to Ellie to help woo her with a letter.
Except for one problem — Ellie develops a crush on Aster too.
Once Ellie reluctantly jumps on board (her own family’s financial situation pushes her to accept), the blossoming interracial friendship between the odd couple of this straight white football star and Asian lesbian and literary wonder drives the story as much, if not more, than the disguised flirtations between Aster and Ellie-as-Paul.
The hardships facing some Asian American families also factor into the story in “The Half of It”. Ellie’s dad, who had arrived from China with a distinguished engineering education, is shunned because of his English and can only land work overseeing a lowly train station in a small town in Washington state. Ellie fears leaving him, especially when she’s the one calling the electric company to learn their payment is overdue and the power will be cut soon.
“The Half of It” delivers many heartfelt moments that transcend the usual boundaries in terms of culture and sexual orientation, and shines with a diverse cast.
Catch “The Half of It” on Netflix. You can watch a trailer on Youtube:
Or, if you’re based in China, view the trailer here.
What do you think? Have you seen “The Half of It” yet?