Netflix movie lacks solid romance, unlikely friendship redeems plot

Teenage girls across the world often fall prey to bullies and insecurities; high school is a breeding ground for both. Netflix’s new movie Sierra Burgess Is a Loser hits these prevalent issues with a dash of romance while following the personal growth of two teenage girls.

The movie is adapted from the 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand. In the play, the genders are swapped and the ending is much darker and bloodier than the light-hearted Netflix flick, but it includes similar themes of social hierarchies and self-doubt.

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser tells the story of high school senior Sierra Burgess — played by Shannon Purser — as she tries to figure out what defines her. As she struggles through college applications, Sierra faces the belittlement of the most popular girl in school — Veronica, who is played by Kristine Froseth.

Suddenly, Sierra receives an unexpected text from football quarterback Jamey — played by Noah Centineo— but Jamey thinks he’s texting Veronica and does his best to flirt with her. The movie starts to pick up when Sierra decides to pretend to be Veronica and eventually falling hard for Jamey.

The movie starts off slowly as Veronica bullies Sierra. Sierra’s flippant attitude toward her bullies and her best friend Dan — played by RJ Cyler — make the audience assume that the movie will be another cliché teen film.

When Jamey texts Sierra, there is hope that this rom-com might finally pick up. Although Purser and Centineo display some semblance of chemistry as actors, it’s the script that lacks the love story fans were hoping to watch. There are very few scenes with the actors together in person and the scenes with both characters interacting show little of their conversations. 

Although the movie doesn’t feature an exciting love story, it still manages to be heartwarming in unexpected places. The true focus of the film seems to be the unlikely friendship between two insecure girls and the personal growth that each one experiences along the way.

Sierra lives in the shadow of her father, a successful author, and her beautiful mother, but her insecurities about society’s beauty standards don’t appear to affect her until she becomes interested in Jamey. As she pretends that she is someone thin and traditionally beautiful to keep Jamey interested in her, Sierra reveals that she is scared to show Jamey her true self because she might not be physically attractive or popular enough for him.

Veronica, who seems like the stereotypical cheerleader, struggles with school work and feels insecure about her intelligence. She agrees to go along with Sierra’s catfishing-scheme in exchange for tutoring lessons as she wants to appear smarter for a college guy.

During their first tutoring session at Veronica’s house, Sierra glimpses into Veronica’s difficult family life. Her mother pushes her to be popular and pretty rather than have her worry about school. Froseth does an incredible job portraying Veronica’s complex internal struggles, managing the high standards set by her mother and the pressure of her own self-doubt.

The unlikely partnership between Sierra and Veronica blossoms into friendship as both of them encourage each other to step out of their comfort zones. Sierra understands that Veronica’s terrible home situation pushed her toward bullying others while Veronica understands Sierra’s insecurities about not being good enough for college or for Jamey.

As the viewer might expect, the entire scheme unravels when Sierra gets angry at Veronica for kissing Jamey and posts a picture of Veronica being dumped over text to ruin her popularity.

Sierra writes a song that reflects how she feels different and unwanted because of her looks. She shares this song with her father and Veronica to express her feelings and explain her actions.

The end of the film is romantic to the point where it bored the viewer. Jamey arrives at Sierra’s door the night of the high school homecoming dance, telling Sierra that while he is angry, he understands why she catfished him and betrayed Veronica. 

The movie fails to make a big deal about the fact that the encounter between Jamey and Sierra couldn’t have happened without Veronica telling Jamey what happened and shared Sierra’s song with him. This point should have been accented to emphasize the importance of the girls’ friendship and growth over the blossoming relationship between Jamey and Sierra.

Veronica and Sierra reconcile at the homecoming dance. The girls are united in their uniqueness; Veronica does not truly fit in with her popular crowd anymore and Sierra is not the idealistic girlfriend that Jamey originally sought. 

Even though the romance is not the highlight of the film, the friendship that develops between Veronica and Sierra as they mature is intriguing. The friendship that they share is the real “relationship” of the movie, as it demonstrates the importance of girls being there for one another.