Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
Director: Ian Samuels
Writer: Lindsey Beer
Cast: Shannon Purser, Kristine Froseth, RJ Cyler, Noah Centineo, Loretta Devine, Lea Thompson, Alan Ruck, Mary Pat Gleason
Seen on: 9.2.2020
Content Note: ableism, transmisia, sexualized violence
Sierra (Shannon Purser) is far from a popular girl. Not like Veronica (Kristine Froseth) who hates Sierra and has boys flocking to her. Boys like Jamey (Noah Centineo) who gets up his courage to ask for her number. But Veronica isn’t interested in someone she sees as a loser – and instead gives Jamey Sierra’s phone number. Jamey and Sierra start texting and get along great, but Sierra doesn’t dare tell Jamey who she really is – and isn’t. But Veronica, too, has boy trouble: she really wants to impress the college guy she dates with her knowledge – and for that, she needs Sierra’s help.
When Sierra Burgess came out, I remember there being a lot of criticism of it, but that memory had – unfortunately – faded to a point where I thought, I’d give the film a chance. I shouldn’t have. The criticism was right, this film is a very hot mess.
Buried somewhere in this film is another movie about a girl who doesn’t fit beauty standards and a girl who does and they become best friends by lifting each other up and simply liking each other while struggling with body image issues and complicated families. I would have liked that film, a lot. But unfortuately there is the actual movie that gets in the way of this movie I would have liked. And the actual movie I didn’t like at all.
There is peripheral (as in less central to the story) stuff that rubbed me the wrong way like Veronica hassling Sierra with transmisic insults – obviously placed to make Veronica the bad girl in this scenario, but never apologized for or in any way criticized for what it is and thus only reinforcing the transmisia she spews. There is a seriously uncomfortable scene where Sierra pretends to be deaf so Jamey doesn’t hear her voice – only he has a deaf brother and she is almost tripped up. This moment, too, is never really properly disseminated or apologized for in the film – it’s just played for laughs. I don’t think they even realized how offensive it is.
But the central story is also rotten to the core: Sierra pretends to be Veronica to Jamey way too long. Jamey even goes on a date with Veronica-as-Sierra-as-Veronica – a date that ends with a kiss. Veronica tells him to close his eyes, then shoves Sierra in front of him. They kiss, with Jamey thinking he is kissing Veronica. before he opens his eyes again, Sierra disappears elated and Veronica stands before him again. And all of this is played as this big romantic moment for Sierra, but it’s nothing but sexual assault. When there is finally a situation where Jamey actually kisses Veronica – he does think they are dating – Sierra sees them, completely loses it and humiliates Veronica in front of the entire school. And then we’re just supposed to forgive her for all of that fuckery, just like that. Jamey does, basically without hesitation. They never even really talk about all the shit that went down. And sorry, that just doesn’t work here.
The film did have potential. It has a very charming and extremely promising cast in Purser, Froseth and Centineo and I’m sure that they will have other opportunities to shine. But this film definitely isn’t it.
Summarizing: Ugh, definitely not.