Following the success of its frothy YA romance “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Netflix is doubling down on young adult-focused features with girls in the lead, and this time it’s courting queer audiences. Having just released a charming first trailer, “The Half of It” is a grounded coming-of-age story about a teenage girl discovering romance isn’t all there is to life. Taking a page out of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” as many storytellers have before, the epistolary plot will be recognizable to many. In “Saving Face” filmmaker Alice Wu’s capable hands, it is entirely transformed for contemporary audiences.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Bookish introvert Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is perfectly content with her life: watching old movies with her widowed father and ghostwriting papers for her high school classmates to help pay the bills. But her side gig turns personal when lovelorn jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) hires her to craft love notes to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) — a smart, popular girl out of both their leagues… and Ellie’s own secret crush. Just as the duo’s plan begins to work, a new wrinkle emerges: Ellie and Paul have fallen into a deep friendship neither could have anticipated, giving rise to a surprising love triangle.”
Released in 2004, “Saving Face” was Wu’s debut feature and a watershed moment in Asian-American LGBTQ film. The romantic comedy about a Chinese American woman coming out to her traditional mother premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and received distribution from Sony Pictures Entertainment. It starred Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, and Lynn Chen, and counted Will Smith as a producer. At the time, it was the first Hollywood film to center on Chinese Americans since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.” While the film was not a financial success, it was critically embraced and has been recognized as a groundbreaking classic in the years since.
“The Half of It” represents Wu’s return to filmmaking more than 15 years after the premiere of “Saving Face.” With Netflix’s wide international reach and a heartwarming and relevant story, it will hopefully introduce the director not only to new audiences, but will open doors in Hollywood.
Netflix will release “The Half of It” globally on May 1. Check out the charming trailer below.