In the new Netflix coming-of-age dramedy The Half of It, high school student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) earns a reputation around campus for writing A-plus papers for her classmates. Her humdrum life in the fictional small town of Squahamish gets turned upside down when a peculiar request from popular jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) brings Ellie closer to her first love — who her client also has feelings for — than she had ever imagined possible.
If the plot of the Netflix project sounds familiar, it's because its core premise has been the storyline for a number of different films, including Roxanne (1987), The Ugly Truth (2009), and Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018). Though the context changes each time — The Half of It actually centers a queer love story — the formula for these works remains the same: someone uses their relationship knowledge to help their rival-in-love connect with their shared love interest.
All of these stories drew inspiration from the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. Penned by French playwright Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac follows the complicated love triangle between soldier and wordsmith Cyrano, his distant cousin Roxanne, and the handsome Christian.
Although Rostand's protagonist is talented physically as well as creatively (he's good at sword fighting, poetry, and music), Cyrano is also described as having a very large nose that renders him unattractive to the people around him. This feature doesn't help his case when it comes to winning the hand of the beautiful Roxanne; she's caught the eye of Christian, Cyrano's comrade, and the couple fall for each other at first sight.
The only problem is that Christian has no game. Bumbling and clumsy with his words, Christian's only hope for winning Roxanne's heart are the heartfelt love letters written by Cyrano in his name. Their charade is successful, and our lovelorn hero's deep feelings remain a secret until the bitter end.
From the looks of its trailer, The Half of It teases a much happier ending, even if it doesn't lead to romance for Ellie. After all, romantic love isn't the only relationship worth exploring — her budding friendship with Paul is just as swoon-worthy.
Find out how it all goes down by streaming The Half of It, now available on Netflix.