With the increase of original teen movies and shows in Netflix’s repertoire, such as “Insatiable” and “To All The Boys I Loved Before,” recent release “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” was heavily anticipated. But following the premiere of the film on Netflix, the film fell short from expectation.
The central idea of the film is simple: awkward teen girls who don’t fit the “It-Girl” stereotype are also worthy of love (whether it be romantic or not). The film came out with good timing, especially after the controversy that sparked with the initial release of Netflix’s “Insatiable’s” trailer. Which sparked immediate backlash for the show’s depiction of fat shaming and weight loss as a revenge comedy teen drama show. But luckily the “Sierra Burgess” made up for the blow, due to the somewhat similar storyline.
Just like “Insatiable”, the plotline spotlights an unpopular protagonist, Sierra Burgess, who like most unpopular protagonists only has one friend and seems fairly comfortable in their own skin. At least, for the first half of the movie before the storyline midway disrupts their self-esteem.
The film’s leading male heartthrob Jamey (Noah Centineo) suddenly texts her, but under the impression that she is someone else. This someone else turns out to be the stereotypical high school mean “It-Girl” Veronica (Kristine Froseth), who often attempts to bully Sierra such as insulting her and giving her number to Jamey as a mean-ish prank -- which unravels the mess of events that weaves throughout the film. But as Sierra continues messaging Jamey, she soon realizes that pretending to be Veronica through text is not enough. In exchange of being tutored, Veronica agrees to help Sierra’s predicament by standing in during FaceTimes and even dates.
As Veronica and Sierra continue to help each other, an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two. Despite the story theoretically focusing on the relationship between Sierra and Jamey, the relationship lacks actual meaning and eventually fades away on screen. The friendship between the antagonist and protagonist ended up becoming the most interesting development rather than the actual couple.
While “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” stood its landing against “Insatiable,” it didn’t rise to the same expectations that “To All The Boys I Loved Before” had set weeks prior, which many anticipated for since they both featured the same male lead and romantic interest: Centineo.
Centineo gained viral attention as a rom-com heartthrob after his role as the beloved Peter Kavinsky in Netflix’s “To All The Boys I Loved Before,” even though he was already known for his stint on Disney Channel’s “Austin and Ally” as Dallas and as Jesus in ABC Family’s “The Fosters.”
Keeping it in the Netflix family, the movie starred Shannon Purser who received notoriety for her role as Barb in the first season of Stranger Things. The earnest tone of the film matched Purser, who channeled a bit of her Stranger Things character -- an unpopular, smart, but comfortable girl in high school.
The film itself gives a nod to 80s teen comedies like The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986) and Sixteen Candles (1984) -- nostalgic, but also with the same coming of age rom-com teen movie themes.
The film’s screenplay didn’t do anything to help the audience buy into the story. It came off as a film that expected audience members to just go with it. There are no details in the story, unlike “To All The Boys I Loved Before,” where Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky discussed deep topics about abandonment and life. Instead Sierra Burgess paints blank strokes with broad topics that come up between Sierra and Jamey, which is suppose to be the conversations that make them fall for each other. Instead of life struggles, they talk about stars, sandwiches and funny animals.
The final act was particularly clumsy during the blow up scene, in which everything gets revealed. Given the nature of the film, Jamey should want nothing to do with both Sierra and Veronica after the elaborate scheme that they’ve planned for the duration of the whole movie, or in their case -- two weeks. But when you get to the last five minutes of the film, Sierra suddenly figures out her teenage angst, both she and Jamey get together, and everyone suddenly makes up and all is right again. The movie abruptly cuts to the credits after a cute friendship hug between Sierra, Veronica and Sierra’s best friend Dan (RJ Cyler) at school on the night of their homecoming dance.
The ending just didn’t sit right. It felt rushed.
Despite the complaints, the film still works because of its cast. The character portrayals evoked the struggling awkward reality of being a teenager. From Jamey psyching himself up with his shirtless mirror selfies (which he regrettably sent) to Sierra’s antics of eagerly replying and retyping her messages to raw cut moments of what it was honestly like being a high schooler.
Sierra Burgess will remind you of your high school days and the antics of each character will both make you cringe and laugh with its relatability.
It’s just too bad that Barb and Peter Kavinsky couldn’t entirely salvage what could have been a potentially great movie.