‘The Half of It’ is Cyrano de Bergerac with a queer high school twist
Netflix’s new film, The Half of It, takes on the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac and gives it a queer twist for LGBTQ teens for all the feels.
Written and directed by Alice Wu, The Half of It is about all of us being in love with that girl in high school but you know you can’t have her because everyone else around you is straight.
The story of The Half of It
Cyrano de Bergerac, for those who don’t know, is a story written by French playwright Edmond Rostand in 1897 about the nobleman Cyrano, who writes love letters for another man to Roxane, the woman he loves.
In this modern-day version, 17-year old Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) lives with her dad in the rural town of Squahamish, a small town in eastern Washington state.
Ellie– a shy, straight-A high school senior– writes papers for her fellow high school students for money. She’s pretty much accepted the fact that she’s an outsider.
One day, a football player named Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) hires her to write a love letter to his crush, the popular girl Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). Aster also happens to be Ellie’s own crush.
Complications ensue when Aster finds herself confused over how the real Paul doesn’t sound like his letters, and Ellie has to teach Paul how to be a good conversationalist.
Ellie becomes good friends with Paul and then Aster starts to think that Ellie is pretty cool. That’s when things start to become even more complicated.
Alice Wu and The Half of It
Wu is previously known for directing the 2005 lesbian romantic comedy, Saving Face, about the Chinese-American community.
Wu said The Half of It originally started as a story of a 20-something lesbian, her guy best friend, and the best friend’s girlfriend.
Wu based the story on her real life former best friend and the heartbreak over the loss of their friendship, as well as about her own coming out.
“My best friend in college was a straight white guy. He helped me accept myself as gay more than anyone,” she said.
“But his new girlfriend was wary of our relationship, despite knowing I was gay, and slowly, ineffably, the delicate calculus of our connection eroded,” she added.
Unfortunately, she had problems with the story: “As I started outlining it, I realized I couldn’t do justice to these themes in a 100-minute movie. I couldn’t find an ending that felt both satisfying and earned.”
Our life as a teen movie
That’s when she decided to turn the story into a teen movie: “At a certain point, your characters tell you what they want, and I thought maybe I should just set this thing in high school.”
“I love teen movies. Only in high school is every feeling so intense. Because it’s the first time it’s happened to you, you think it’s the only time it’s going to happen to you,” Wu explained.
“Frankly, when it comes to love, don’t we all regress to being teenagers? Then the whole Cyrano component slipped in and the film became something else entirely,” she pointed out.
The director further explained the double meaning of the film’s title, from referring how people spend their lives searching for their “other half” to referring to the saying: “you don’t know the half of it.”
“The point of the film isn’t about who ends up with whom. It’s about people who collide in a moment in time,” Wu said.
For more about he film, check out the trailer below: