Starring: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire, Collin Chou, Enrique Murciano, Wolfgang Novogratz, Catherine Curtin, Becky Ann Baker, Gabi Samels
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Netflix’s teen romantic comedy written and directed by Alice Wu. The story follows shy, straight-A student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who makes extra cash writing homework papers for her fellow high school students. Her side gig turns personal when lovelorn jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) hires her to write love letters to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie’s own secret crush. As all three embark on an unexpected journey of discovery, they form a complicated triangle of friendship as they come to terms with their own unexpected feelings about love and find connection in the most unlikely of places.
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Our Favorite Quotes:'In love, one always starts by deceiving oneself, and ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.' - Oscar Wilde (The Half of It) Click To Tweet 'Gravity is matter's response to loneliness.' - Ellie Chu (The Half of It) Click To Tweet 'Love isn't patient, and kind, and humble. Love is messy, and horrible, and selfish, and bold. It's not finding your perfect half. It's the trying, and reaching, and failing.' - Ellie Chu (The Half of It) Click To Tweet
Ellie Chu: [voice over] The ancient Greeks believed humans once had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces. We were happy. Complete. So complete that the gods, fearing our wholeness would quell our need for worship, cleaved us in two, leaving our split selves to wander the Earth in misery. Forever longing. Longing. Longing, for the other half of our soul.
Ellie Chu: [voice over] It is said that when one half finds its other, there’s an unspoken understanding. A unity. And each would know no greater joy than this. Of course, the ancient Greeks never went to high school. Or they’d realize, we don’t need the gods to mess things up for us.
Ellie Chu: [voice over] If you ask me, people spend far too much time looking for someone to complete them. How many people find perfect love? Or if they do, make it last? More evidence of Camus’ theory that life is irrational and meaningless.
Ellie Chu: [voice over] And that, my friends, is some A-plus love philosophy right there. Or A-minus if Mrs. G is in a bad mood. Either way, it’s an A, or you don’t pay.
Ellie Chu: [voice over] In case you haven’t guessed this is not a love story. Or not one where anyone gets what they want.
[referring to the homework papers she’s written for the students that pay her]
Mrs. Geselschap: Six different takes on Plato. Impressive.
Ellie Chu: Just the one.
Mrs. Geselschap: That’s what I tell the bartender.
Ellie Chu: How come you never turn me in?
Mrs. Geselschap: And have to read the actual essays they’d write?
[as her teacher shows her a college application for Grinnell]
Ellie Chu: You know I’m going to E-dub.
Mrs. Geselschap: Damn shame.
Ellie Chu: Damn full ride. I can live at home, and, plus, I get to stay in lovely Squahamish.
Mrs. Geselschap: Hell-quahamish.
Ellie Chu: It’s not that bad. Okay, it’s not that good either, but it’s what’s happening.
Mrs. Geselschap: Well, I spent four of the best years of my life at Grinnell.
Ellie Chu: And look at you, back home in Hell-quahamish.
Mrs. Geselschap: You’re right. Stay away from the liberal arts.
Ellie Chu: Try not to get fired over the weekend.
Mrs. Geselschap: Are you kidding? Everyone in this town fears God, but you know who God fears? The Teachers Union.
[after Paul grabs gets Ellie’s attention by stopping her riding her bike]
Ellie Chu: Ten dollars for three pages, twenty dollars for three to ten. Not in the over-ten-page biz.
Paul Munsky: No, I’m not trying to cheat.
Ellie Chu: Nobody is. Whose class is it for?
Paul Munsky: No, it’s not… Um…
[he offers her the paper in his hand]
Ellie Chu: What’s this?
Paul Munsky: A letter.
Ellie Chu: Who writes letters these days?
Paul Munsky: I thought it’d seem romantic.
[after seeing Paul’s letter is for Aster Flores]
Ellie Chu: I can’t help you.
Paul Munsky: I just need a few words. Good ones.
Ellie Chu: I’m not writing to Aster Fl… To some girl! It’d be wrong. A letter is personal. It’s supposed to be authentic.
Paul Munsky: That’d be awesome.
Ellie Chu: No! I can’t be you being authen… Get a thesaurus, use spell-check. Good luck, Romeo.
[Ellie gets back on her bike and rides off]
Paul Munsky: No, no. I can pay more for authentic!
[after Ellie drops her papers in the school hallway and Aster stops to help her]
Aster Flores: These hallways are murder.
Ellie Chu: I’m Ellie Chu.
Aster Flores: Yes, I know. You’ve only been playing my dad’s services every Sunday for like four years. You’re his favorite heathen. He can’t handle mediocre accompanists. Even if they are saved.
[seeing her papers]
Aster Flores: Remains Of The Day. Loved it. All that barely repressed longing.
[she hands Ellie her phone and walks off]
Ellie Chu: [scolding herself] “I’m Ellie Chu.”
[after finding out that their power will be cut off unless they pay at least $50]
Ellie Chu: Fifty dollars, one letter. After that, you’re on your own.
Paul Munsky: Yes!
[reading from his letter to Aster]
Paul Munsky: “Dear Aster Flores, I think you’re really beautiful. Even if you were ugly, I’d want to know you, because you are smart and nice, too.”
Ellie Chu: “It’s hard to find all those things in one girl. But even if you were only two of those things, I’d be into it. But you’re like all three, just to be clear.”
Paul Munsky: She’s like all three.
Ellie Chu: Thanks for clarifying.
[continuing to read Paul’s letter to Aster]
Ellie Chu: “About me. Some people think I’m the cutest one in my family. Those people being my grandma, who’s dead now. Never mind about my dead grandma. All I’m saying is that I like fries. I like dipping them in my milkshake. Is that weird? It’s actually really tasty. Would you like to try that with me sometime? I work part-time and I have a truck. Let me know whenever. Thanks. Paul Munsky, second string tight end, football.”
[after reading Paul’s letter to Aster]
Ellie Chu: So what you’re trying to say is…
Paul Munsky: I’m in love with her.
Ellie Chu: Have you ever spoken to her?
Paul Munsky: I’m not good with words.
Ellie Chu: But you know you love her?
Paul Munsky: I know. I think about her when I wake up. And when I’m doing my sprints. And when I’m eating my mom’s bratwurst, and when I’m saying my prayers.
Ellie Chu: That just means you’re stubborn. Not that you’re in love.
Paul Munsky: No, it’s love.
Paul Munsky: Oh, I get it.
Ellie Chu: Get what?
Paul Munsky: You’ve never been in love.
[in anger Ellie gives Paul’s letter back to him]
Ellie Chu: You want a letter about love? I’ll write you a letter about love.
Paul Munsky: One that’ll make her fall in love with me, not make her storm off in a huff, like what you’re doing right now!
[written on-screen quotes]
“In love, one always starts by deceiving oneself, and ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” – Oscar Wilde
Paul Munsky: Hey! She wrote back.
[gives the letter to Ellie]
Aster Flores: “I like Wim Wenders too. Wouldn’t have plagiarized him though.”
Paul Munsky: Who’s Wim Wenders, and why did you cheat off him?
Ellie Chu: I didn’t cheat off of him.
Paul Munsky: No, I looked up “plagiarize”.
Ellie Chu: I kind of cheated off him.
Paul Munsky: I paid you!
Ellie Chu: But this is good!
Paul Munsky: How?
Ellie Chu: It’s like a game. She’s like challenging us. But in a good way.
Paul Munsky: So, uh, we’re still in the game.
Ellie Chu: Yep. Mm-hmm. We are. So, yay.
[writting Paul’s reply to Aster]
Ellie Chu: “Dear Aster, okay, you got me. I sometimes hide behind other people’s words. For one thing, I know nothing about love. I’m seventeen. I’ve lived in Squahamish my whole life.”
Paul Munsky: Such a downer.
Ellie Chu: It’s not a downer!
Paul Munsky: A major downer!
Paul Munsky: Ask her to hang out.
Ellie Chu: What exactly is hanging out?
Paul Munsky: You know, uh, hanging out.
Ellie Chu: But like what do you do?
[writting Paul’s reply to Aster]
Ellie Chu: “I hang out with my friends. I keep my head down. I’m a simple guy. Which is to say, if I knew what love was, I would quote myself.”
[Paul and Ellie meets in the priests confessional booth]
Ellie Chu: Isn’t this sacrilegious?
Paul Munsky: She wrote back.
Aster Flores: “Dear Paul, you know it takes eleven muscles to yawn? This is the sort of weird fact I find myself recalling to keep myself from well, yawning. Or showing anything I feel really. So, yeah, I turn to other people’s words too.”
Aster Flores: “When you’re a pretty girl, and I know it makes me sound conceited, but that’s why you’re even writing me, right? When you’re a pretty girl, people want to give you things. What they really want is to make you like them. Not like them as in, ‘I like you’, but like them as in, ‘I am like you’.”
Aster Flores: “So I’m like a lot of people. Which makes me kind of no one.”
[writting as Paul to Aster]
Ellie Chu: “I never really thought about the oppression of fitting in before. The good thing about being different is that no one expects you to be like them.”
[we hear Aster and Ellie writing as Paul, writing to each other]
Aster Flores: “Doesn’t everyone think they’re different, but pretty much we’re all different in the same way?”
Ellie Chu: “Says the girl perched on the rarefied peak of Mount Popularity.”
Aster Flores: “Easy, Mr. I Know Nothing About Love. I may surprise you.”
[from their letters to each other]
Ellie Chu: “What’s surprising is people don’t see what they’re not looking for.”
Aster Flores: “The obvious unseen.”
[after Mrs. Geselschap finds Ellie’s letter to Astra]
Mrs. Geselschap: So this is why half my class is failing their essays.
Ellie Chu: I’ll be reopen for business soon enough. I mean, this can’t go on much longer.
[from their letters to each other]
Aster Flores: “I’ve been thinking about what you said about seeing and not seeing. I had a painting teacher once tell me that the difference between a good painting and a great painting is typically five strokes. And they’re usually the five boldest strokes in the painting. The question, of course, is which five strokes?”
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