“Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” is 2018’s most recent teen love story to come to Netflix, and it has amassed both critical appreciation and superfans. If you love movies with 80s vibes, Noah Centineo, and deeper themes than boy-meets-girl, this film is for you.
Centered around an intellectual social outcast named Sierra (Shannon Purser) and a somewhat dorky football player named Jamey (Noah Centineo), the film avoids the cliché by not having the main characters meet normally. Instead, due to some peer pressure from his friends, Jamey asks the head cheerleader, Veronica, for her number, and is shocked when she agrees to give it to him. However, he does not know that Veronica gave him the number of Sierra Burgess, the frequent target of bullying from Veronica. When Jamey texts Sierra, she instantly realizes the mistake that has been made but decides not to clear it up and finds herself falling for a boy who has no idea who she really is. She must spin more and more complicated lies as she finds an unlikely friend in Veronica and attempts to prevent Jamey from finding out the truth.
The characters in Sierra Burgess are, at best, fun to watch. While the acting was average for a Netflix original, I found the characters to be unrealistic and their actions to be inconsistent with their mindsets. Throughout the story, Sierra has a tendency to play the victim, even in sticky situations she has created for herself. Veronica, the queen bee, gives up her popularity to befriend Sierra much too quickly and seems not to care that she loses the status and friends she once deeply cared about. And while this may seem controversial, Jamey is much too sweet to be a normal teenage boy. He is unrealistic not only because he is too good to be true, but also because of how he reacts to being tricked and manipulated by multiple people. Certainly, these unrealistic characters charm the viewers and move the story in its intended direction, but often the actions they take would make no sense in the real world.
Despite being labeled as a “rom com,” this love story touches on themes like the superficiality of appearances. Sierra struggles to accept her own appearance throughout the story. Her personality is what attracts Jamey to her, but she fears that once he sees her his interest will fade. On the other hand, Veronica, whose life is picture-perfect on the outside, grapples with a difficult home life and poor performance in school. Ultimately, both characters learn from each other that things aren’t always as they seem and that what’s on the inside is more important than external appearances. (That sounds kind of biblical to me.)
In addition, a modern love story such as this would have been impossible without today’s technology. Sierra’s ability to catfish Jamey for weeks without his knowledge is possible only because most of their relationship is online. The film highlights the fact that technology allows us to create facades that would never be achievable face to face. It also touches a bit on online bullying and its implications. However, the film’s overall stance on technology is neither positive nor negative. It simply explores the idea that modern relationships can be drastically altered or manipulated because of the tools accessible through the phones in our pockets.
Overall, this film is an average romantic comedy. Without entirely spoiling the conclusion, I have to take this movie rating down a notch for the predictable ending. I myself enjoy when films end unpredictably or take unexpected turns, even if it means sacrificing the “Awwww!” moment in the end. Ultimately, I would have to give this movie a middling rating. Points for a modern retelling of a classic story, a protagonist whose appearance is not changed as a resolution of conflict, and Noah Centineo. Deductions for non-realistic characters, the token minority best friend, and the scene that involves Sierra trying out for the boys’ track team.
If you’re looking for a mediocre teen romance, watch “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.” If you tend to be turned off by cheesy endings and rom-coms that seem too good to be true, sit this one out.
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