Why do we like the story of an underdog? Why did we root for David when he was battling Goliath? Why did we jump out of our chairs in jubilation when Bong Joon-ho grabbed an Oscar for his film? It’s not because we underestimated the ability of any of these people but because the society has painted a picture in front of us in which all these characters are misfits. They are misfit because we have always been taught about an ideal world with perfect strokes. Noone ever taught us that being vulnerable is also a part of an ideal world or going through a metamorphosis is perfectly an organic aspect of the very same ideal world. Yet, anything that is less than ideal is considered a misfit in today’s world. The Half Of It is a story of one such young girl metamorphosing from a misfit to an impressive individualist person.
Set in a fictional town Squahamish, The Half Of It is a coming-of-age story of Elli Chu (Leah Lewis), a dorky nerd who supports her father by carrying out most of his duties as a station master and signalman. She is the smartest kid in the class and does assignments for her classmates (for additional income) with the motto “it’s an A, or you don’t pay.” Life presents a conundrum to Chu when her classmate Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) offers to pay a premium price if she helps him write a love letter to his crush Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). What begins as a singular assignment turns into a series of back-and-forth exchanges between Flores and Chu resulting in an honest albeit unusual friendship between Munsky & Chu and Chu’s embracing of her own sexuality when she publicly acknowledges her feelings for Flores.
Lewis has done an immaculate job portraying a shy, lonely teenager who is busy fulfilling one responsibility after another. On the other side of the loneliness spectrum is Lemire, who has a lovely and calm presence and plays the role of the prettiest & nicest girl in school. Completing the trio is Diemer, who according to me, has given a remarkable performance of playing a clumsy and awkward yet lovable character. It is commendable how well the casting team has picked such a diverse set of talented young actors to deliver a heart-warming performance.
Every song, movie, story has a best part & if I had to pick the best part of this movie, it would be Alice Wu, the director, producer, and writer of this film. This is Wu’s second film after Saving Face – which made everyone take a note of her back in 2005. Her ability to convey the crux of the film by weaving intelligent symbolism and dialogues is marvelous. The movie begins with an animation and you see various scenes throughout the movie that link back to the beginning animation. From the chatnames in ghost messenger to showing a scene from a Bollywood film, every aspect of this movie is well thought out and crafted for a reason. Every director wishes to convey a message in their films but there is a thin line of perfection between underselling and overdoing and Alice Wu, according to me, gets it right! How we wish we get to see more of Wu’s films?!
The climax of the movie made me realize why we root for the underdog. It is because all of us have been an underdog in our own lives at some point. All of us have been through the painful process of transformation that made us doubt if we would ever fit in… only to realize we were never meant to ‘fit in’. We were meant to stand out and design our own journey; and have faith that, at some point, life will make us meet our own Paul Munsky or Aster Flores….. or both 😉
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel