Last time I talked about Cyrano de Bergerac, and as promised, today’s film is heavily inspired by it, albeit with a more modern skin. In The Half of It our Cyrano is an Asian, lesbian high school student named Ellie, our Roxanne is Aster, and our Christian is Paul. But in addition to the queer theme, I say this movie is better because the characters are more fleshed out and real, but also because Ellie doesn’t die in the throes of delirium.
Set in the fictional town of Squahamish–which, as a native of Washington state, fucks me up because that’s clearly based on Suquamish but the movie also mentions Spokane and Wenatchee, so why??–Ellie is a smart loner who writes essays for dumb students. She’s approached by Paul, a football player who has eyes on Aster, a pretty girl who, for the record, is seeing someone (although he doesn’t really matter). Ellie agrees to write letters to Aster while pretending to be Paul. This evolves into texting, and soon Ellie is starting to feel real gay towards Aster. Paul goes on a few dates with Aster (her boyfriend, Trig, is more of a himbo than Christian in that at least Christian was sometimes treated like an actual person) while also developing a friendship with Ellie. But then he tries to kiss Ellie, and this is seen by Aster. Soon enough Trig is proposing to Aster, and when Ellie tries to stop the proposal she reveals she’s been the one texting Aster. Anger and disappointment are rather short lived, as high school is now over and our characters are moving on: Ellie–after somewhat reconciling with Aster and giving her a farewell kiss–is leaving for college, Paul’s culinary invention is making waves across the area, and even Aster is preparing to go to college, presumably no longer with Trig. The movie ends with Ellie riding off in a train, in the opposite direction of the sunset, but still.
Where Cyrano is built to be a tragedy, The Half of It is more a… slice of life story. It’s grounded, showing that all the characters (well, except for Trig) are people with passions and flaws, and doesn’t give an artificial happy ending. They’re conflicted high school students, for god’s sake. There’s little to no chance of longevity if anyone had stayed together. But the world is a hellscape of late, so I will admit that part of me did want one of those “and they lived happily ever after” endings. But that’s just me, and I can always watch Were the World Mine again for that fix.
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