The Half of It parents guide

The Half of It Parent Guide

This sweet, genuine rom-com with an LGBTQ twist is also a clean movie with endearing characters.

Overall B

New to Netflix: Ellie Chu is smart...and broke. When one of the school jocks asks her to write love letters for his crush, Ellie leaps at the opportunity, but along the way, she starts to fall for the same girl.

Release date May 1, 2020

Violence B+
Sexual Content B
Profanity B-
Substance Use C-

Why is The Half of It rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Half of It PG-13 for brief language and teen drinking.

Run Time: 104 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) lives above the train station managed by her father in Squahamish, Washington. Their financial situation is tenuous, so Ellie writes term papers for her classmates to help pay the bills. “It’s an A or you don’t pay,” she tells them. When school jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) asks her to write a love letter to the girl of his dreams, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie refuses. But with the utility bills fast approaching, she capitulates and agrees to write one love letter for $50. There’s just one problem – Ellie has a crush on Aster, too.

The Half of It sounds like a remake of the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac, told with an LGBTQ twist. That is the basic plot element – a besotted swain seeks help finding the words to woo his crush. However, the heart of the story isn’t the complicated love triangle between Ellie, Paul and Amber: it’s the friendship between Paul and Ellie.

It’s rare to see a real friendship unfold on the big screen but The Half of It pulls it off because it creates teenagers who are real and complex. When Paul appears in the movie, we feel like we already know who he is – the stereotypical dumb jock. There’s more to Paul, though, and as the story unfolds, we get to know him as the kind-hearted, overlooked son in a large family with dreams of tweaking the family sausage recipe and unexpected talents for picking out girls’ clothes. As for Ellie, her portrayal moves beyond the “smart Asian kid” trope to show a girl who’s haunted by her mother’s death, who has assumed too much responsibility for her father, who composes plaintive songs on her guitar, and who’s willing to step aside to help her friend. Amber, as the love interest for both parties, is less well developed, but there’s still some depth. Everyone sees the pretty, popular pastor’s daughter and trophy girlfriend, but she is revealed as an artist who revels in reading books and asking big questions. There’s a lot more here than we normally get in a teen rom-com.

From a content perspective, there’s also a lot less than we normally expect to see in a movie aimed at adolescents. There is one scene of underage drinking and ten profanities but the area which will likely concern parents the most is sexual content. Fortunately, this is one of the cleanest rom-com I’ve ever seen, with only a handful of kisses and no other sexual activity. Parents seeking movies that provide a matter-of-fact look at LGBTQ teens will be happy to find this production. (If you have traditional views of sexuality, your opinion may differ.) But overall, this is a sweet, funny, genuine little film about the challenges teens face as they come to know themselves and struggle to find their place in the world.

The Half of It juggles both positive and negative messages which revolve around honesty. Oddly enough, Ellie’s term paper writing business isn’t treated negatively – in fact her teacher knows she’s doing it and prefers reading Ellie’s work to whatever her classmates would turn in. Although this academic dishonesty is winked at, the movie makes clear that the deception perpetrated on Amber has consequences. Ellie asserts that “love is messy” but maybe it’s more accurate to say that it’s lying about love that’s messy.

Directed by Alice Wu. Starring Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, and Alexxis Lemire. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release May 1, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Half of It

The Half of It
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Half of It rated PG-13? The Half of It is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief language and teen drinking.

Violence: A piano is vandalized on purpose. Teens graffiti a wall. A boy deliberately bumps into a girl in the school hallway. Family members shout at each other at the dinner table. A father sprays water on a young man under his window. A young woman slaps a man in the face. There is a noisy argument in a church.
Sexual Content: There are a couple of scenes of teen boys and girls kissing. Two teenage girls kiss in one scene. A teenage girl removes her top to swim; we see her bare shoulders. Characters watch a movie on TV in which a woman removes her top and a man strokes her shoulder.  A girl is described as “hot”.
Profanity: A girl is verbally bullied. I counted ten profanities, including four terms of deity, two scatological curses, and four mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   There is a party scene showing numerous teens drinking alcohol, playing drinking games, and getting drink. A main character gets drunk, vomits, and wakes up hungover. She is shown taking pills, presumably aspirin.

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The Half of It Parents' Guide

Paul tells Mr. Chu that he doesn’t really “see” his daughter – who she really is and who she could be. How do you look past your preconceptions and see people for who they really are? How can you avoid stereotyping people?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

The Cyrano story has been adapted for films before. Steve Martin played the Cyrano character in Roxanne.

A teenage boy struggles to come out about his sexual identity in Love, Simon.

A young man struggles to acknowledge his homosexuality in his religious family in Boy Erased. Note: this movie has some disturbing content and is not suitable for younger teens.