The Half of It

The problem with a queer Cyrano de Bergerac is that the straight version is one of those irritating stories where everyone would just be better off being honest and communicating in a real way, and that doesn't entirely go away by making it queer. So you spend the whole movie waiting for the obvious shoe to drop, and it's more tiring than compelling. So what really matters is (a) how they spend all that time doing everything except the main relationship shit and (b) how they stick the landing.

Alice Wu's first film in 40,000 years turns out to do that pretty well.

What we get is a very cute friendship that deserves more time (Paul and Edwin), a very cute friendship that works out pretty well (Ellie and Paul), and a queerish friendship/romance that practically doesn't exist except for two really great scenes (Ellie and Aster). We are not forced to suffer too much of Aster and Trig, and a lot of usual cliches are avoided, turned on their heads, or downplayed (the stalking, which I still fucking hate). The biggest disappointment is the lack of queer exploration; Aster is the most underserved character.

However. What all of that is sacrificed for is worth it: Ellie. Ellie is a rare and wonderful character that we don't get often enough. For one thing, she's not white. This is not unexpected from Alice Chu, but statistically speaking, this is not something we get often. She is queer and unequivocal about it. She is direct, poetic, and not particularly stereotypical for a queer character--at least, not in the way straight people stereotype us. Her struggles are familial and compelling. Moreover, she comes to her decisions on her own through her own struggles, and the story consistently centers on her.

While this isn't the perfect work that the follow-up to Saving Face deserves to be, it's still a remarkable film and skillfully made, a queer narrative, and one centering a person of color, in a world full of shitty romcoms still pushing insipid rape culture narratives on us.

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