The Netflix Gods heard my distain for the streaming service’s teen flick hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and they’ve gifted me a charming high school comedy titled Sierra Burgess Is a Loser as an apologetic gesture. Call it coincidental timing, I call it wishful thinking.
After gaining a cult following and a Primetime Emmy nomination for portraying a homely pal named Barb on Netflix’s Stranger Things, Shannon Purser gets an early shot in her acting career to carry a feature film – she does a really good job. Purser plays the titular Sierra Burgess, a confident albeit lowly student who spends most of her time with her charismatic best friend Dan (RJ Cyler of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl). Many know her as the daughter of famous author Stephen Burgess (Alan Ruck) and expect she’ll crank out the same writing quality. But, Sierra Burgess has her interests set elsewhere and she’s happy with who she is – making it somewhat difficult to overcome expectations by her teachers and peers. However, a prank by prissy “mean girl” Veronica (Kristine Froseth) takes Sierra outside of her element when she’s finally recognized by a cute outsider, Jamey (Noah Centineo), in a way that makes him still oblivious to the situation.
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser functions using typical teen movie tropes that are only found in cinematic American high schools (the wild partying, a big reveal at a large school function, the “mean girl” sidekicks who wait on Veronica hand and foot). However, Lindsey Beer’s screenplay rightfully gives each character a strong voice to push past these clichés, and Ian Samuels’ empathetic direction is focused on the independent spirits driving this heartwarming film. The movie becomes even more endearing when Sierra becomes aware of the prank, but doesn’t want to blow the ruse because she enjoys the feeling of being considered by someone else. Veronica and her end up working together, causing Veronica to become more vulnerable; tearing away the facade she uses to hide the personal life she’s ashamed of.
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is a sweet film about exceeding expectations when you feel the odds are stacked against you. It’s about embracing and reevaluating blemishes and figuring out how they represent your true self. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is a movie worth fawning over.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie