A teen dramedy like writer/director Alice Wu’s The Half of It, while usually finding itself fabricated in the realm of fiction, almost always has a kernel of truth to its events. But in the case of this particular Netflix original, Wu’s script actually drew quite a bit for her own experiences in life. In particular her personal journey through college, and the loss of a friendship, were what helped push things along.
Alice Wu recently spoke to the Washington Blade about The Half of It, and during her explanation of where the story came from, she explained as follows:
My best friend in college was a straight white guy. He helped me accept myself as gay more than anyone. But his new girlfriend was wary of our relationship, despite knowing I was gay, and slowly, ineffably, the delicate calculus of our connection eroded.
In The Half of It, the shy protagonist Ellie (Leah Lewis) tries to help jock turned friend Paul (Daniel Diemer) profess his love to a girl they both go to school with. The only problem is, she starts to develop feelings for the same girl, which sounds like the exact sort of thing that would complicate a budding friendship.
The Half of It debuted last week as part of May’s incoming crop of original Netflix content, takes a more uplifting (while bittersweet) sort of turn, Alice Wu’s real-life complications made for just the right inspiration to start writing her film. But as she continued to describe in her interview, there was a crucial change that needed to be made in order to keep the story going.
The story had to move from college to high school, and this revelation came to Alice Wu through a specific thought process:
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. 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. Everything is heightened in a way that allows you to cover a lot of emotional territory.
Real life is messy, and when friendships intersect with love, it’s even more complicated. But such events lead to inspiring results in the world of film, which only makes the magic of the movies all the more attractive. Meaning a project like The Half of It gives someone like Alice Wu the chance to re-write real sadness into a beautiful fiction.