Netflix has had its hits and misses with rom-coms, and with Noah Centineo and Shannon Purser onboard, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” had a lot of online hype. Despite the excited anticipation, the movie is a disappointing miss.
After Netflix’s show “Insatiable,” which received online backlash for a fat-shaming narrative, and hit movie “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” people were excited to see Shannon Purser and the internet’s newest heartthrob, Noah Centineo, come together for a sweet, body-positive love story. Instead, the film delivers a weak script, offensive jokes and a redemption arc that leaves you more disappointed than happy.
The titular character Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) starts off as an easy character to relate to. She’s awkward yet intelligent, and like a lot of people, is self-conscious about her body. This protagonist is particularly exciting because she doesn’t physically fit the mold of a typical rom-com heroine, a great step for more body diversity on-screen.
In contrast to Sierra, the film introduces Veronica, played by newcomer Kristine Froseth. Veronica is a play off of the popular girl trope often seen in rom-coms. She’s pretty, a head cheerleader and bullies Sierra relentlessly for basically no reason. While at a cafe, Veronica, as a prank, gives Jamey (Noah Centineo), our loving and soft-spoken jock, Sierra’s number instead of her own. It’s not until Sierra realizes the boy she’s fallen for thinks he’s been texting Veronica that things get weird.
Right off the bat, the catfishing plot line can make anyone cringe a bit, and by some miracle, Veronica and Sierra come together way too easily in their plot to fool Jamey. The story moves at a good pace, but the creepiness of the catfishing escalates as it goes from texts and using photos of Veronica to a non-consensual kiss fairly quickly. In a movie where we should be rooting for the underdog to get the guy, the creepiness of their first kiss doesn’t make anyone feel good.
Another off-putting trait of the writing was the amount of offensive jokes scattered throughout the movie. Sierra was constantly taunted with jokes assuming she was lesbian or transgender, insinuating that queerness is something to be ashamed of. There is also one scene where Sierra pretends to be deaf in front of Jamey’s deaf younger brother Ty. The scene tries to gain laughs at the expense of Ty, since Sierra doesn’t actually know how to sign. Other scenes between Jamey and Ty are incredibly sweet and having disabled representation done properly, without using it as a punchline, would have been incredible.
A positive outcome from Sierra and Veronica’s team up, though, is their surprisingly warm friendship. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” skims the surface of a complex female relationship which could have made for a more beautiful plot line. As they grow closer, it is a shame that the movie doesn’t focus on them instead of Sierra and Jamey. Sorry, Noah Centineo fans. Despite Centineo’s lovable performance and Purser’s charm, the poorly written relationship between Sierra and Jamey isn’t nearly as endearing as Veronica and Sierra’s, which makes the ending even more frustrating.
In the movie’s song sequence, Sierra makes an impulsive move, which she attempts to remedy later through song,“Sunflower.” The song itself is nice, but it only functions as a bandage to the sloppy writing. Purser has an amazing voice, but Sierra’s redemption cheats the viewer of a deeper meaning, only using Veronica and Sierra’s relationship as a tool to further the weak storyline.
“Sierra Burgess is a Loser” has all the cast members it needs to be a wonderful rom-com, but the faulty writing is a total letdown.