The Thing About Harry
I’m a little late in reviewing this film. I watched it about a week after it was released on FreeForm, but since it’s been awhile I watched it again today. It’s a positive, feel-good movie that often follows the formulaic rom-com model, but it is more than the sum of its parts.
Quick synopsis: “Sam is a young gay man who’s forced to share a car ride with Harry — a popular jock who was his enemy in high school. But things take an unexpected turn when Sam learns that Harry has come out, opening the door for a potential romance.”
The main characters, as one would expect, are both flawed in some ways. Sam has been hurt by a best friend turned lover turned ex. He’s also very judgmental and can be somewhat rigid. Harry still seems to be discovering himself as he goes from person to person trying to figure out what (or who) he wants in a relationship.
But the two are very likable, and they have such good chemistry that if this weren’t a rom-com it would be tragedy if they didn’t end up together. I liked how the film showed their growth over time as individuals and as they got to know each other.
The secondary characters were all well written and contributed to the story. I especially was a fan of Peter Paige’s character, Casey, who felt like a wise friend that you’ve known for ages. Perhaps this is because of Queer as Folk, but it was a good role for him.
One thing I initially did not like was Sam’s judginess. There is a scene where his friend Stasia is trying to set him up, and he mows over every prospect with a generalization or a dismissal based on looks. I realize how prevalent this is in society today, and it’s one of the things that fuels an us/them mentality. In Sam’s case, this is also what is preventing him from making a connection so the film is depicting the harm that comes from this mindset.
A rom-com theme is usually predictable, and Harry is not an exception. We have a traditional “rom-com clichés” such as the unlikely pairing (SapioBlog 2016). At first, we think that Sam and Harry are incompatible. But then we have multiple themes like commitment issues and falling in love with a best friend.
Interestingly, one of the most under-served themes in the rom-com is the unrequited love which shows up in 6% of movies while 78% of people have had this experience. (SapioBlog 2016). This theme makes it into the film making even more relatable. One of my biggest complaints with films of this genre is that they are often so unrealistic. This is not to say that Harry is completely IRL, but it makes the effort to be more of what people experience.
From what I’ve read, Peter Paige was looking to create a film that related more to a current generation of LGBT people. One of his thoughts was that younger people look at and talk about sexuality differently now, and the idea of a character coming out as pansexual became a part of the story. (Turchiano, 2020) I love films that include a more Millennial perception of LGBT life, and the added bonus was the character Casey tying it back to Gen Y.
The Thing About Harry is not that Harry is a bad guy, but he’s growing as a person along with those around him. That the film satisfies an unrequited love with falling in love with your best friend makes it a double feel-good movie.
That this was released on a Disney property is not lost on me. Having a movie like this as a young person would have meant a lot to me, and I’m grateful to Peter Paige for putting it out there for younger people to see now.
SapioBlog, Kelsey. (2016, October 25). The Anatomy of a Romantic Comedy. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from http://www.getsapio.com/blog/the-anatomy-of-a-romantic-comedy/
Turchiano, D. (2020, February 24). Peter Paige on Writing Titular ‘The Thing About Harry’ Character as Pansexual. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from https://variety.com/2020/tv/features/thing-about-harry-peter-paige-directing-romcom-pansexual-gen-z-interview-1203487932/