Movie Review: “The Half of It”
The Half of It
Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is in high-school, but she does not really have any friends. She is a loner, but she is a talented writer and musician. She is known by her fellow classmates as the girl who they can pay to write their essays for them, getting them As. However, there is a boy in her school who wants to hire her to write something else, a letter.
Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) has an intense crush on another girl, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). He thinks about her constantly, but he has not been able to work up the nerve to talk to her. He does not talk well, especially with girls, so he hopes that Ellie Chu can write a letter so great that it causes Aster to fall in love with him. However, one letter turns into multiple, and Ellie soon finds herself texting Aster on Paul's behalf. Ellie and Paul have been seeing a lot of each other and have become close friends in their attempts to get Aster to fall for Paul, but feelings soon get very complicated, as Paul, Ellie, and Aster seem to desire different things. Paul has been the friend that Ellie has never had, so she wants to help him, but lies like the one they are in rarely lead to happy endings.
The Pros & Cons
Ellie & Paul (+6pts)
Aster & The Triangle (+6pts)
Aster & Paul (-3pts)
Ellie & Her Father (+3pts)
The Gasping (-1pts)
Pro: Ellie & Paul (+6pts)
Okay, so what I liked about these two characters was kind of in two parts. The first part had nothing to do with the overall plot itself, but was just these two characters' dynamic together. Putting their goals with Aster aside for a moment, these two characters were just fun to watch together. Ellie was shy, she was an introvert, she was critical of the world around her, and she had a passion for art and literature. Paul was the complete opposite. He was seemingly fearless (with talking to Aster being the only real exception), and he seemed to have an endless well of optimism.
The best way to explain the two would be to say that Ellie's personality was that of a cat, while Paul's was that of a dog. The two then came together, and their different personalities blended together well. I bought their chemistry as friends, and I enjoyed watching their friendship grow and evolve. They started as project partners (the project being trying to get Aster to fall for Paul), but they became close friends as the story progressed. As characters, I liked how they helped each other through their respective fears and reservations, but as performers, I just liked their chemistry together.
Con: Predictable (-4pts)
In the beginning of the movie, a character said something that pretty much gave away how the movie would end. It was a narrated line that I think the filmmakers intended to be a subtle hint of what was to come, but there was nothing subtle about it. A character vaguely said how things would turn out and it made the movie pretty predictable. Of all the possible combinations of the triangle these characters found themselves in, it became pretty clear which one would be the final result, based on that not so subtle line.
I did not know the exact path that the story would take, but I knew what would come from Ellie and Paul’s friendship, I knew what would come from Ellie writing the letters, and I knew where Aster would fit into it all. I knew how all the chips would fall, so to speak, which gave away the story’s climax. I also knew that this was the sort of movie that would have some sort of a happy ending (regardless of whether or not each character got what they want), so I knew how characters would leave things with each other at the end of the story. I liked the complicated triangle, but I wish the filmmakers had not spoiled the result and I wish there were a few more surprises along the way.
Pro: Aster & The Triangle (+6pts)
I already mentioned how I enjoyed Paul and Ellie's friendship together, but I found what brought them together to be interesting as well. Paul wanted to win Aster's affection, but he needed Ellie's help to do so. In the process of writing letters to Aster (on Paul's behalf), and reading her responses, Ellie found that her and Aster had similar interests and seemed to understand each other, when it seemed no one else did. This made her feelings on writing to Aster complicated, and that is all I will say about it, but I enjoyed the complication that this posed. This made for an interesting triangle of sorts, with Paul and Ellie each having their own feelings regarding the situation they were in with Aster.
Aster liked Paul, but only liked Paul because of the letters that were written by Ellie, and Ellie feels conflicted about her role in deceiving Aster. I already mentioned how I thought the whole plot of this movie was predictable and why, but I liked the idea of this triangle, and I liked the complex relationships formed between each of them (Aster and Paul, Paul and Ellie, and Aster and Ellie). Aster and Paul seemed to like each other, but had nothing in common. Paul and Ellie were friends, but had conflicting desires when it came to Aster. Aster and Ellie, had everything in common, but the fact that Ellie was basically deceiving Aster meant that Ellie could not be completely honest with Aster. Had the filmmakers not given the whole thing away from the beginning, this trio could have made for an interesting and unpredictable story. The filmmakers did give the whole thing away, but I still found the complex relationships to be interesting.
Con: Aster & Paul (-3pts)
I understand that the whole point of this movie was that Aster and Paul's potential relationship was flawed. Paul had nothing in common with Aster, and he was terrible at talking to her. I know that the latter issue was by design, but I thought the filmmakers went too far with it. I simply did not buy that someone like Aster (someone interested in literature, art, and was already in a shallow relationship with someone who did not understand her) would have been at all interested in Paul after the first time they spoke in person. His dialogue in-person was just too different from his letters and texts (which were Ellie), and I felt it would have been obvious to someone like Aster that she was being deceived. I also felt their relationship would not work even if they did end up together, so I was not invested in Ellie and Paul's attempts at making that happen. I think making Paul at least somewhat of a realistic match for Aster would have gone a long way in making me care about the main objective of this story.
Pro: Ellie & Her Father (+3pts)
This relationship did not get a ton of focus, but when it did, I was into it. After Ellie’s mother died, it became just Ellie and her father. They had dinner together, watched movies, and Ellie worked at the train station that Ellie’s father operated. They had somewhat of a tragic story, with respect to the death of Ellie's mom, and the two were all each other had. Again, this storyline did not get a ton of focus, but it provided this movie with some decent drama, some comedic and light-hearted moments, and it made it easy to connect with Ellie.
Con: The Gasping (-1pts)
Okay, this was a very minor moment of the movie, but I did not think it worked well. The climax of the movie took place at church during mass, so there were a bunch of other people around. Each time one of the main characters (Paul and Ellie) began speaking, all of the church-goers whipped their heads around and gasped as if in shock. I bought it the first time it happened, due to the context of the scene, but it happened repeatedly and honestly took me out of the movie a bit. I do not know if the filmmakers wanted to add a little comedy to the climax, and I did not think it ruined the climax entirely, but I thought it took some of the steam out of the scene.
Grade: B- (82pts)
I really enjoyed the complicated triangle in this movie. The relationships between the three characters were interesting, but I thought the filmmakers sort of ruined it by pretty much giving away the ending right from the beginning of the movie. Nonetheless, I liked the friendship between Paul and Ellie, I liked the idea of the two working together to win Aster over on Paul's behalf, and I liked Ellie's complicated feelings about it. It was an interesting idea, but the filmmakers started the movie by giving away the ending. Maybe they were trying to be subtle, but if so, they did not succeed.
By giving away the ending, the filmmakers made all the major plot points pretty predictable. I also thought that Paul and Aster were too unrealistic of a pairing, so I was not invested in seeing Paul and Ellie succeed in their attempts to get Aster to go out with him. There were things about this movie that I thought the filmmakers could have done better, and I thought the movie would have been a lot better if the filmmakers did not spoil their own ending. That being said, it was a decent movie about a complicated triangle that was light-hearted and amusing at times, and mildly dramatic at others. I did not think it was a great movie, but I enjoyed it for what it was.