Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is the tale of high school outcast Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), who everyone considers a loser, except for her gay, black friend Dan (RJ Cyler). When the school’s most popular Mean Girls archetype cheerleader/bully/beauty Veronica (Kristine Froseth) gives Sierra’s number to Jamey (Noah Centineo), a quarterback from another high school enticed by Veronica’s cheerleader looks, everything changes. Thinking he is talking to Veronica, Sierra must keep the ruse going as Jamey falls for her personality, with the help of her former enemy. Trying to overcome pressure from her peers and living in the shadow of her successful and attractive patents, Sierra struggles with how to reveal to Jamey she is not, in fact, Veronica.
Though romantic comedies are not my genre, it is still obvious that Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is simply an okay movie. As you can tell by my summary of the film, a lot of this is a little too familiar, fulfilling a lot of the beats I expected with the same tired archetypes you see in most high-school-set romantic comedies. Veronica and her two friends feel ripped out of Mean Girls. Sierra obviously has body issues, but she is beautiful on the inside. Her best friend is the other “outcast,” a gay, black kid. All built around a case of mistaken identity, the film doesn’t seem to push the boundaries of the genre or bring anything new to the high school experience like 21 Jump Street. It’s that same, frozen-in-time concept of high school as set by John Hughes in the 1980s.
That being said, writer Lindsey Beer does bring a great deal of depth to Sierra, the lead, played by Stranger Things’ Shannon Purser (#Justice4Barb). Her character is very well fleshed out, dealing with more than just peer pressure, in a much more thought out way than your typical high school film. The rest of the characters… not so much. Most seem to behave in whichever way best serves the narrative of the film, resulting in some very convenient moments. As far as dialogue, it is hard for me to judge. It seemed fairly weak, but I feel weird as a 30-year-old male judging dialogue written by a woman for a high school girl. So, maybe I’m just not in tune with how high school girls speak these days.
Director Ian Samuels is certainly going for a John Hughes feel, as previously mentioned, and I don’t think it exactly works here. The film carries an almost Stranger Things-esque electronic ‘80s score, Sierra’s father is played by Alan Ruck (Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and the film ends with title cards for all the characters, saying what happened to them after the events of the film. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is set in modern day, so these ‘80s feels really clash with the story being told, and the decision to invoke the feeling of a Hughes movie feels weird and out of place here — not that a film imitating Hughes has to be set in the ‘80s, as that’s not what I’m complaining about. The previously mentioned fates of all the characters felt less like a throwback and more like failed jokes, as these types of endings only seem to work as parodies these days, while the movie is fairly sincere.
Though this film’s plot would feel far worse if it focused on a teenage boy more or less “catfishing” a high school girl, it still doesn’t seem appropriate here in just a few scenes. Yes, it is a remake of an older film, and the story isn’t really the problem. But, there is a scene when Jamey thinks he is kissing one girl when he is kissing another. It just seems strange the way it plays out; not cute and romantic in this current, more “PC” climate.
When all said and done, I can’t really say it’s a terrible film. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser just isn’t for me. If you love these types of movies, you may enjoy it, though the plot is far simpler with less forward movement than even my plot description or the official IMDB synopsis imply. The dialogue may be spot-on for all I know, but again it felt like I was mostly watching a series of archetypes and not fully fleshed out characters.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would LRM — more of a geek and comics-based website — even review this? Well, Sierra Burgess is a Loser piqued our interest because the aforementioned writer, Lindsey Beer, was in the writer’s room for Godzilla Vs. Kong, and is also responsible for the scripts for Masters of the Universe, which is in preproduction, and Silver Sable (formally Silver & Black) which is still a planned part of Sony’s Cinematic “VenomVerse” that starts with Venom this October (Oh yeah, and Dungeons and Dragons, Kingkiller Chronicle, and Chaos Walking). This is Beer’s first film to actually come out, so we wanted to get an idea of what to expect from her.
As far as using this to try to predict the quality of Silver Sable’s script… I have no idea. The dialogue would certainly be of quite a different variety in a superhero film such as that, though I hope the plot to the film has more depth and a faster progression of plot than Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. But really, I’d be comparing apples and oranges, at this point.
Will you be checking out Sierra Burgess Is a Loser when it hits Netlix this Friday, September 7? Let me know your thoughts down below!