The Thing About Harry Review: A Quirky, Cute, and Quietly Subversive Queer Rom-Com We Needed!

Television

Is it even a good rom-com if you don’t suffer from secondhand embarrassment, scold the characters onscreen, grin like an idiot, and swoon a little?

No, it isn’t, and since The Thing About Harry made you do all of the above, it was a good rom-com.

The Thing About Harry got so many things right. It was in the unique position of trying to live up to the high expectations of being one of Freeform’s first queer rom-com’s while also being a classic story like everything else.

It’s a hard line to toe appealing to multiple demographics. Yes, it should have the space to be a cute, cheesy, trashy romantic comedy like any other, but it also had to manage to do it from an LGBTQ perspective.

It had the task of normalizing queer relationships in the same vein as most hetero ones in the genre while also being unapologetic, brazen even, in acknowledging the queerness.

And the movie nailed it. TTAH balanced it out well. Viewers were lost in this love story like so many others while keenly aware of how groundbreaking the movie was in its own right.

And that’s the thing; The Thing About Harry is groundbreaking by existing.

As a result, they didn’t have to try too hard, and it’s not to suggest there wasn’t a hell of a lot of hard work behind this film, but in the end, it was another cute, cheesy, and charming rom-com that just so happen to revolve around two men.

For better and worse, it stuck to the classic rom-com formula, while still being thoughtful and aware enough not to swap out a hetero couple for a queer one and leave the entire film devoid of the LGBTQ perspective and culture.

But boy did they bring out all the classic rom-tropes. It was practically on steroids, to the point of being maddening at times, but that’s the entire point.

Everyone should have their cheese and fluff and guilty pleasures that they pick apart or gush over.

Its two leads were flawed, funny, agitating, and lovable. You wanted to hug them, and yeah, sometimes smack some sense into them too.

They made you laugh, and roll your eyes, and cringe, and side-eye, and swear, and squeal in delight. OK, maybe I’m the only one that gets this invested in my fictional works, so don’t judge.

But more importantly, they had stellar chemistry. Any film with a hint of romance will crash and burn if the chemistry isn’t there and lacking, and fortunately, Jake Borelli and Niko Terho did not have that issue.

Borelli embodied Sam, the seemingly lovelorn protagonist who had a bad habit of standing in his own way.

He was judgmental, moody, and opinionated. Sam was rigid in his opinions; a stubborn refusal to yield was partly at the center of the rocky road to him finding love.

Stasia: What about him? 

Sam: Toucan sam?

Stasia: You know what they say about big noses…

Sam: Big boogers?

He had that way of being a closet romantic, quietly earnest while also cynical. And a little neurotic too. You know, the classic protagonist in desperate need of someone who was slightly the opposite to shake up his world.

And Harry fit the bill.

Oddly enough, Terho has an eerily similar charisma and appeal of Freeform alum Noah Centineo. They have a comparable cadence too. It’s quite striking, petition for them to play brothers in a future project, please and thank you.

Anyway, Harry was a whimsical dudebro. The effervescent soft jock had no business being as endearing as he was, but somehow he pulled it off.

Sam deserved a medal for not sending Harry careening out of the passenger door ten minutes into their road trip.

The boy was obnoxious as hell, but it set the groundwork for frat bae to evolve a bit into something more mature over the years.

And that’s another thing that made the movie so good. With the multiple time jumps, the movie could properly flesh out that delicious enemies-to-friends-to-lovers-to soulmates goodness.

It also dragged on the angst to the point of near hair pulling as we impatiently waited for these two disaster children to find their way to one another.

The movie skated past some of its more problematic elements. The recurring matter of former bullies becoming love interests can be irritating across the board.

However, it’s always more frustrating when the bullying is rooted in homophobia, particularly internalized homophobia. They mostly avoided this. The movie was vague about Harry’s past behavior.

Harry: Hey, listen, I really am sorry about being such a dick during school. You’re pretty awesome.

Sam didn’t give the impression that Harry made his life a living hell growing up, nor that it was rooted in violence.

Outside of Harry telling Sam he had a crush on him and was jealous of Sam being out, it sounded like Harry was teasing Sam without life-altering malice or it specifically being about Sam’s sexuality.

Sam: Can I believe that you drove multiple women to the point of a psychotic break? Yes, yes I can.

Harry: Ouch.

It was advantageous that they didn’t dwell on it — less scrutiny, even when it danced on the lines of it, like Sam’s reaction to Harry’s sexuality.

Although, that also could be attributed to Harry’s history of being a womanizer.

Sam was stunned when Harry said he was pansexual. Now that we know it, it doesn’t feel right calling the movie a gay rom-com.

It’s a bold and impressive move to address more than the same three identities on the sexuality spectrum. Bisexual characters, especially men, are already unicorns on TV, so an actual pansexual character is like, a centaur. And they said the actual word too, often, so it’s not up for debate or interpretation.

Harry: I’m pan.

Sam: Pan. You’re pan? What does it mean?

Harry: Pansexual? It means that I don’t have preference in terms of gender and–

Sam: No, no I know what it means. What do you mean you’re pan?

Harry: Well, I used to call myself bi, but someone schooled me that pan is way more inclusive and more me. I’m surprised you didn’t know this already. My mom practically put it in the Christmas letter the year I came out. Hey, now that you know, maybe we can hit up some of the bars in Boystown sometimes. Most of my boys are straight, so I could use a good gay wingman. Dude, you OK? 

Harry didn’t want to be a pan stereotype where he slept with any and everyone with a pulse, but he did get around, and it was something our judgmental Sam commented on frequently.

It was great that the movie was super sex-positive. Notably, with the fiery Stasia as well.

But it was also annoying that this group of friends did so much bed-hopping. In what universe would Stasia be oblivious to Sam’s feelings for Harry and decide to date him?

How did she end up marrying a surprisingly likable Zack? So much messiness.

But the movie did capture some of the trials and tribulations of the dating scene, especially when you’re as picky as Sam. Bless his heart, Sam’s attempts to get over Harry led to some hilariously bad dates.

Casey: You deserve someone to love, you know, and someone to love you.

A favorite was when the one guy mentioned Obama, and Sam was ready to drop his trousers. We’re in tough times, folks.

But then the guy’s hairpiece came off in Sam’s hand, and he was smart enough to know that date was over.

Sam, bless his heart, had a terrible habit of blocking his own blessings. It’s part of the reason he went multiple years, not in a happy romantic relationship with his new best friend.

In Harry’s defense, he was stuck. He had apparently always liked and admired Sam anyway, but the road trip changed everything.

Harry: So you really didn’t know?

Sam: I really did not.

Harry: I thought you had me pegged a long time ago.

Sam: Why would I? 

Harry: I don’t know. You caught me staring at you sometimes.

Sam: Because I thought you hated me!

Harry: No, not at all. Truth is I admired you.

The long, deep, and at times silly and lighthearted conversations they had in the hotel room opened both of their eyes to one another. Sam realized Harry had more depth than he though, and Harry realized how easily he could fall for Sam.

And it must have terrified Harry, especially when Sam insisted it was impossible to have a romantic relationship with your best friend. He was burned badly by his trifling ex, that he hardened his heart to the idea of it.

His points were semi-reasonable. The worst thing imaginable was going for it and then losing your best friend and boyfriend if it didn’t work out. It is like two losses in one fell swoop.

But if it matters, and the chemistry is there, and stars align, you have to take the risk. What if it does work out? And if you’re really best friends, hopefully, you can move past it if it didn’t work out.

But Sam shut the connection with Harry down without even realizing it before it could take off. So Harry went back to his ex-girlfriend, breaking Sam’s heart a bit before they could get anywhere.

And then Sam dropped all communication. Sam was such a disaster child; you wanted to shake some sense into him at every turn.

Sam made so many snap-judgments about Harry, so part of their friendship was Harry proving to Sam that he wasn’t any of the things Sam would presume.

Harry: I wish I knew you were into rich old guys, I would have introduced you to my grandfather.

Sam: Excuse me! That’s super ageist. At least I’m not a man whore.

Harry and Sam needed to be friends so that Sam could better understand Harry, but if Sam put Harry in the friend zone, then he wouldn’t give them a shot at being anything more.

Harry and Sam were the cutest of friends. They became each other’s “person” quickly, and they made it hard not to root for them to be something serious.

It made no sense, to anyone but Sam, why those two spent years mutually pining for each other.

And it wasn’t like Sam was happy with the dating he was doing. His pretentious older boyfriend, played by the lovable Karamo Brown, never had a shot in hell of being Sam’s true love.

Sam had no problem choosing Harry over him without batting an eye. He spent years biding his time settling for any monogamous relationship instead of the right one.

Sam was too scared to take the real risk of falling in love and opening himself up to hurt. Honestly, I don’t know what he would’ve done without the guidance and advice of his roommate, Casey, played by writer and director Peter Paige himself.

Casey: Am I to surmise from the fact that you are sitting here in the dark that brunch did not go quite as you might have liked?

Sam: There have been funerals for children that weren’t as awful as that brunch.

For such a small part, Casey was a standout character. Again, the movie did a decent job of more realistic depictions of LGBTQ relationships.

It was always a crock of BS when movies and shows depicted one gay character in a sea of straight people. The likelihood of an out non-straight person only having straight friends is pretty damn slim.

But with Casey, Sam not only had a close friend but a fraternal figure who served as a bit of a mentor too. Sam and Stasia’s friendship was lively and fun, and standard (a refreshing role reversal on the “sassy” friend/sidekick) , but Sam and Casey’s friendship was charming, compelling even.

Casey always gave Sam the kick in the pants that he needed. He was honest with Sam and never minced words. He approached things from a place of experience, and he was seasoned.

It was such a small moment, and some fast but poignant dialogue, when he mentioned that he didn’t march on Washington and fight for LGBTQ rights for Sam to sit there and wallow all of the time.

It felt very meta. It was a moment of appreciating what everyone before fought and strived — to get to these seemingly innocuous victories.

Casey: I did not march on Washington, and act up, and fight AIDS for all of those years, so that you could waste your life locked up in that malodorous bedroom furiously masturbating to what can only be described as moderately shameful amateur pornography.

It was moments like that where the gravity of the film hit without breaking out of it to make a big deal.

Casey was there in the moments when Stasia and Sam grew distant. Pride was such a turning point for all of their relationships.

Sam never realized how much he shot himself in the foot with his words. No, Stasia and Harry shouldn’t have hooked up and started dating. It defies all of the friend codes.

Harry: So did you mean that thing you said about how when guys become friends they can never become anything more than that?

Sam: One billion percent, yes. You either end up having bad sex, or ruining the friendship, or both.

Harry: And there are no exceptions ever? 

Sam: None. Zero.

Harry: Not even for you and me?

Sam: Not even you and me.

If not for Sam, the idea of them hooking up made sense. Stasia, in a wonderfully progressive take, enjoyed no-strings sex and was a commitmentphobe.

She and a fluid Harry who forgot his girlfriends’ names and anniversaries and all that stuff were a decent match.

But Sam was always going to be in the middle of them. Harry was in love with his best friend, and he used Sam’s best friend to get over it, and Stasia went from trying to set Sam and Harry up to dating him herself.

Stasia: Hey, fratpaddle. I’m recently single, and I’m going to need you to take me into some kind of bathroom or supply closet and screw me into oblivion. No names. No wants. No needs. Just two animals going at it. You think you can do that for me? Atta’ boy.

I don’t know anyone who would willingly do that and think it would pan out. Um, pardon the unintended pun.

It was not only a contrivance, but it danced on the lines of being a point of no return. If not for the fact that it was a rom-com, all hope that these two boys would find their way back to each other was shattered.

And it ruined all of their relationships. It showed Sam that destroyed friendships were a possibility regardless of if he deprived himself of what he wanted and needed or not.

His drunken tirade at brunch was harsh, but was it going to go any other way?

Harry: Bottoms up.

Sam: Tops too. Don’t be bottomist! 

Sam running away from communication was another one of his worst traits; the poor guy didn’t know that Stasia and Harry broke up or that she loved Zack.

But Valentine’s Day had a way of bringing Sam and Harry together time and again, and it almost seemed like we were in the clear when they admitted their feelings and made out at Stasia and Zack’s wedding.

But Harry screwed up again. Did anyone else want to throw something when Harry told Sam after they had sex that he was planning on moving?

Sam: How could you let us do that knowing you were going to leave?

It took a long time for Sam to grow and evolve past some of his issues. As the primary lead, he had the better character development of the two of them, but Harry lacked that.

For the most part, Harry was the same person we met at the beginning, so it felt like Sam had to work toward his happy ending, and Harry’s reward came after saying the right words and a classic impulsive romantic gesture.

But then, it suited their characters that Sam worked hard, and Harry lucked up and found himself in a happy ending. I guess that’s the thing about Harry. We all know a Harry, you love them, but holy crap they’re frustrating.

Harry: You were my favortie person in the world, and in one night, I just you twice.

Sam: Loved. Past tense. You said that I was your favortite person.

Harry: No, stupid. You are. Always will be. You are the smartest, funniest, strangest person I’ve met. And I love everything about you. I love that you try to control everything, that you don’t trust the cashier to give you the right change. I love that you never forget anything, and that you have to explain your jokes to me. And I even love how crazy I make you because that only means I matter to you. And mattering to you is kind of all I wanted. 

After years of knowing Sam, he should’ve known that Sam wouldn’t give himself over to Harry and be that damn vulnerable with him if he had known Harry was going to leave.

It was selfish on Harry’s part and manipulative to keep Sam in the dark. Prior to that, for those glorious moments, everything was perfect.

Sam and Harry’s physical chemistry was stellar. And holy hotness, that was a steamy AF lovemaking scene. And that’s what it was, lovemaking, not just sex.

It was romantic, sensual, and beautiful. One day we’ll reach a point where we don’t have to commend a work for its realistic and well-shot equal opportunity sex scenes, but sadly, we’re not there yet.

It was one of the steamiest scenes of the year. But gosh damn Harry ruined it in the light of day when the happy couple woke up staring lovingly at each other, and he told Levi he got a job in LA.

But for real, what was his plan? Did he think Sam would consider relocating? Did he not think they would get that far?

Sam: At least I know now for sure I was right. We never should have tried to be anything more than friends. Now it screwed everything up.

They were back in each other’s lives for a damn day, and he thought Sam would embrace a long-distance relationship with both of them on different coasts?

When he’s hurt, Sam had a habit of falling back on his mean judgments. It always went back to Harry’s promiscuity and inability to be monogamous for him.

Harry was dead wrong for what he did, but it had to be exhausting constantly proving to Sam that he wasn’t as bad as whatever opinions Sam formed. They both self-sabotaged their way out of love.

It isn’t ideal having to prove someone wrong all of the time, and Harry had to do that often.

But damn if that boy didn’t nail the big romantic gesture. The secondhand-embarrassment was strong. It was nearly impossible to sit through his cheerleading routine without covering your eyes.

God bless Lindsay for being so accepting about this pretty man in sweats rolling around onstage at her professional, political event. Of course, he followed that up by apologizing and confessing his love and devotion to the other pretty man who helped organize her campaign.

Harry: I’m not going anywhere because I love you, and you can trust me in that.

Lindsay: Well are you going to come up and kiss him now or should I?

It’s too bad they breezed past their wedding. Did Lindsay officiate? My headcanon is that she did.

Sam and Harry had one of the most tumultuous rollercoaster rides of a romance. They get to tell their sweet baby a STORY when the little one grows up.

Daddies went through it to get together and gave people anxiety along the way.

But it all worked out in the end, and everyone found love, including the straight friends who had the secondary romance plot in a clever twist on the non-straight relationship being background fodder IF they bother at all. Hell yes.

The film subverted some queer tropes found in heteronormative narratives while leaning into those heteronormative tropes while putting a queer spin on it.

It was clever, impressive, and appreciated. 

Over to you, my loves. Did you enjoy this sweet and funny rom-com? Did you appreciate the representation? Were you ‘shipping the hell out of Sam and Harry?

Hit the comments below.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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