The new Netflix movie “The Half of It” is a modern-day “Cyrano de Bergerac” — a romance by proxy but with a few twists.
Leah Lewis plays Ellie Chu, a bookish high school senior in a small, white town in eastern Washington. Ellie and her depressed, widowed father seem to be the only immigrants around, and she leads a lonely life. The only time Ellie gets attention from her classmates is when they hire her to ghostwrite their essays, which she does to help her out-of-work father pay the bills.
One day she’s approached by football player Paul, played by Daniel Diemer. She dismisses him as a dumb jock looking for homework help, but instead, he wants her to ghostwrite a love letter to his crush, Aster Flores, someone Ellie has noticed as well.
“The Half of It” is writer and director Alice Wu’s second film, following her groundbreaking 2005 indie “Saving Face,” an LGBTQ, Chinese American comedy of manners.
A 15-year break between features may seem unusual, but Wu’s pathway into the industry was atypical. Before “Saving Face,” she studied computer science at two prestigious universities and landed a job at Microsoft in Seattle.
Wu describes her on-again off-again relationship with the industry, and explains why she picked Netflix as the home for “The Half of It,” despite her love of the old-school theatrical release.