‘Sierra Burgess’ really is, in fact, a big loser

After+falling+off+the+radar+for+a+few+years%2C+it+seems+the+rom-com+genre+is+back+on+the+rise.+Unfortunately%2C+Sierra+Burgess+is+a+Big+Loser+makes+an+earnest+attempt+to+tell+a+story+of+adolescent+love+and+self-acceptance%E2%80%94but+fails+to+do+so+on+the+account+of+a+poorly+written+script%2C+shallow+characters+and+most+significantly%2C+ethically+questionable+plot+points.
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‘Sierra Burgess’ really is, in fact, a big loser

After falling off the radar for a few years, it seems the rom-com genre is back on the rise. Unfortunately, Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser makes an earnest attempt to tell a story of adolescent love and self-acceptance—but fails to do so on the account of a poorly written script, shallow characters and most significantly, ethically questionable plot points.

After falling off the radar for a few years, it seems the rom-com genre is back on the rise. Unfortunately, Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser makes an earnest attempt to tell a story of adolescent love and self-acceptance—but fails to do so on the account of a poorly written script, shallow characters and most significantly, ethically questionable plot points.

Kelly Wei

After falling off the radar for a few years, it seems the rom-com genre is back on the rise. Unfortunately, Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser makes an earnest attempt to tell a story of adolescent love and self-acceptance—but fails to do so on the account of a poorly written script, shallow characters and most significantly, ethically questionable plot points.

Kelly Wei

Kelly Wei

After falling off the radar for a few years, it seems the rom-com genre is back on the rise. Unfortunately, Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser makes an earnest attempt to tell a story of adolescent love and self-acceptance—but fails to do so on the account of a poorly written script, shallow characters and most significantly, ethically questionable plot points.

Kelly Wei, Editor-in-Chief

The following review may contain spoilers.

 

Following the surprise success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems the rom-com genre is back on the rise. After falling off the radar for a few years, audiences have come to once again adore light-hearted fluff and sweet romances, wrapped neatly into a coming-of-age tale.

 

Recent Netflix original Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser, starring Shannon Purser and Noah Centineo, is an undoubted product of the recent genre hype. Based off Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac”, it makes an earnest attempt to tell a story of adolescent love and self-acceptance—but fails to do so on the account of a poorly written script, shallow characters and most significantly, ethically questionable plot points.

 

The movie begins innocuously enough, opening to a stylish, fizzy pop track—Sierra Burgess’s soundtrack remains one of its few redeeming qualities—as we are introduced to teenage intellectual Sierra (Pursuer), a plus-size high school student who is tormented by mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) for her appearance.

 

When handsome Jamey (Centineo) accidentally texts Sierra under the false impression that she is Veronica, Sierra rolls with it, flirting with him until the truth ultimately unravels.

 

The beginning of the movie progresses with quirk and whimsy, in classical rom-com fashion. We indulge in witnessing Sierra and Veronica transform from enemies to unlikely friends, and coo at Centineo in all his worldly charm as swoon-worthy Jamey.

 

However, by the halfway mark of the film, a distinct unease had settled into the pit of my stomach. Sierra Burgess cleverly disguises itself as a coming-of-age romance movie; and certainly, the components are there. The matter of how these components are handled and assembled together, however, is a case for concern.

 

What was I watching, really?

 

If you break it down:

 

A teenage boy being catfished and repeatedly lied to.

 

The same teenage boy thinking he is being kissed by one girl, when in fact, it’s somebody else entirely – who, needless to say, he hasn’t consented to the action with.

 

A barrage of insensitive jokes. One example is Sierra repeatedly being mistaken for a lesbian or transgendered female, as a comedic poke at her “ugly” appearance. (Here, I should note Purser, with her freckles and soft curls, is about as cute as they come.)

 

A serious case of cyberbullying, in which a girl is sexually exposed and dragged to the depths of public humiliation, only to have her perpetrator be victimized and “redeemed”.

 

The use of sign language and deafness as an empty punchline. When Sierra runs into Jamey in real life, she pretends to be deaf and mimics some hand movements so she can avoid him recognizing her voice, only to have the gag backfire when Jamey reveals he knows ASL, due to his deaf younger brother. Hilarious!

 

It should also be noted Jamey and his brother’s relationship is never explored – it only exists superficially for that single joke, and is then swiftly jostled aside. Even if I could overlook the plot inconsistency, the message that is being sent out leaves much to be desired.

 

Overall, Sierra Burgess is an awkward, borderline-offensive sham of what a rom-com can be, where dubious consent stands in for romance and a poor comedic palette left me shutting my laptop at the end of the movie in mild discomfort.

 

While I can certainly appreciate its merits – an appealing set of aesthetics, a bouncy, young soundtrack and a few genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious moments – it’s clear Netflix’s next rom-com should aim higher, and avoid the low digs.

 

Follow Kelly @kellylinwei

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