Quickfire round: The Half of It

What is love? One of the best lines in this quirky LGBT romance movie answers that question, shall we say, boldly. It’s just a shame that it fails to tie everything together nicely by the end of its runtime.

I have no idea why Netflix marketing thought this was the best shot to use for media publications.

Ellie Chu is a high-school genius who writes paid essays for her classmates – it’s much needed money, given the work-shy state of her father. Knowing how good Ellie is for words, underperforming (and far too nice) jock, Paul Munsky, asks her to write a love letter to his crush. But, friendless and bullied, Ellie has never known what love is, so she ironically plagiarises an old movie for inspiration.

The girl in question, Aster Flores, perfectly fits the somewhat cliched mould of beautiful and popular, yet complex and misunderstood, that we often see in indie romance films like this one. Upon receiving Ellie’s letter, which was far too intellectual to have realistically come from Paul, she begins to rethink her relationship with her rich and popular boyfriend. Maybe there is some out there that gets her?

So far, so cute, so typical. But there’s a bit of a twist – Ellie is crushing on Aster just as hard as Paul is. Ellie isn’t faking it when she writes to Aster; her writing, that resonates so strongly with Aster, comes from the heart.

So, look, it’s an adorable and often funny movie. It’s beautifully shot, well paced (objectively slow, but fittingly so), and touches on the sensitive subject of unreciprocated lesbian romance. It’s no surprise that the movie won Best Narrative Feature at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. However, I do have a couple of issues with it.

Firstly, Ellie comes across as remarkably confident and assertive considering she has no real friends and is often bullied, which seems a little… odd? Secondly, the movie doesn’t really come to any kind of satisfying conclusion. The best it can muster up is a sweet link to an earlier scene in the movie, producing a warm fuzzy feeling but not one of satisfaction. I suppose it’s intentional – as wild as the concept of Ellie’s pseudonymous back and forth with Aster is, the film brings it right back to reality at the end, leaving me a little dejected.

Altogether, though, this is a nice movie to watch if you like what you see in the trailer (and much better than Dangerous Lies on the scale of Netflix films).

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What I thought about: Elite (Season 3)

The scandal-hit students of Las Encinas are back. Once again, someone has ended up dead. Although the show’s many side plots are somewhat weaker than earlier seasons, its overarching strengths mean this season is still a must-watch.

You find out what they’re all looking at by Episode 2

What’s it about?
A quick recap of Elite in general: Sixth-formers at a prestigious fee-paying school get up to all sorts of scandalous stuff, but this gets taken to a new level when three comparatively poor kids from the local (now demolished) comprehensive get in on a scholarship. The elite kids can’t handle this invasion, and all hell breaks loose.

Each series is centred around a whodunnit that employs a flash-forward structure to build the viewer up to the final episode. But it’s also so much more than that. Elite has covered a staggering array of topics in its three-season run. The rich/poor divide, trophy wives, cancer, religion, polyamory, same-sex parenting, corruption, fraud, drugs, extortion, murder, sex, and even incest. And I’ve probably only recalled half of them.

I don’t want to spoil earlier seasons, so I can’t say much else about the plot. If you’ve seen earlier seasons of Elite, you can be assured this one is quite similar.

What do I like about it?
Those topics I was talking about? Each one is covered beautifully. Seriously, everything in this show is beautifully done. The scenery, the wardrobing, the casting, the music, the camera shots. Side note on the casting: I’m not ashamed to say that every single character is overwhelmingly attractive.

To be entirely honest, most of the season ran through without much of a surprise. The incidents that happen in Elite are only shocking the first time – so I’m a bit numb to them by season 3. But the final episode is something special. The tension in the club, the words cutting deeper than the broken neck of the champagne bottle, the final send-off. A few minutes are all it takes to illustrate just how deeply the characters are connected to each other. As a fan of the show from the start, it has to be my favourite episode so far.

What do I not like about it?
A potentially unpopular opinion: I didn’t care for Ander’s cancer diagnosis (hardly a spoiler, it happens near the start). In general, the relationship between Ander and Omar was frustrating. I know the show really wants to portray their relationship as some beautiful and delicate thing, but almost every conversation between them resulted in one getting pissed off, and usually pretty quickly, too.

Also, if there’s one person who can be said to be the main character, it’s Samu. In almost every show I’ve ever watched, the main character sucks. This is no exception. He flip flops between good and evil, all whilst being very annoying about it.

Worth a watch?
Absolutely, and especially so if you’ve seen any other season of the show.

By the way…

  • The show has been renewed for 4th and 5th season, but with most of the cast replaced. I’m really sad to see them go, but you can’t keep everyone together after they graduate, can you?
  • I have lots of opinions about this show so, if you want to chat with me about them, please do.

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What I thought about: How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

A hidden gem that you’ve probably skipped past after finding out it’s a German language show. Stick some subtitles on and consider it again, because the production values are great and it strikes a good balance between comedy and drama.

In all seriousness, this show gets a lot of technical stuff right

What’s it about?
Moritz, a guy who’s nerdy but not nerdy enough to be properly good at nerd stuff (think Steve Jobs), and Lenny, a proper nerd who is really good at coding (think Steve Wozniak) have been best friends for years. Together they plan to become rich by launching a website that allows noobs to buy high-level gear for online games.

Except, they end up selling a totally different type of gear. Why? Moritz’s out-of-his-league girlfriend returns from a year abroad in the US, decides to put their relationship on pause, and starts hanging out with the stereotypical rich kid drug dealer. Naturally, Moritz needs to show her he’s still cool. During a night of wallowing in self pity, red bull, and Pringles, he pivots the e-commerce platform MyTems into MyDrugs and launches it onto the dark net.

What do I like about it?
Look, it’s a comedy drama and as such it can get pretty far-fetched. But the producers put in a decent amount of effort to get the up-to-the-minute culture right in this show. Lenny communicates with his online gaming friends over Discord. Moritz references Pebble Time, arguably the world’s first smart watch, and even its recent acquisition by FitBit.

Also, the show has some random – but fun – cutaways, such as a school teacher cheerily describing the effects of MDMA, and a freeze-frame displaying legitimate information about how to avoid overdosing. Because why not?

What don’t I like about it?
Not a lot. I will happily admit I finished the whole thing in one sitting. I enjoyed a lot of the on-point cultural references and the subject matter (starting an e-commerce business, not the popping pills part) interests me personally.

It is a bit shallow in other places, though. The show’s social commentary (usually berating people’s use of social media and how out online profiles are mostly fake) is one of its weaker elements. And the angsty teenage love triangle is adequate at best.

Worth a watch?
For sure. Maybe don’t drag it to the top of your list, but this show is fun and the production values are great. It’s also a good way to brush up on your German, if you know a little already.

By the way…

  • It’s inspired by a true story of a guy who got busted selling $600k of drugs in Germany.
  • The show has been renewed for a second series, and the final episode definitely allows for a smooth transition.

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