When it comes to young adult movies, Netflix originals seem to me to be pretty hit or miss. Some of them, like Candy Jar, are pretty clean, fun, and well-done. And some of them, like #RealityHigh, are pretty much insufferable.
So where does Sierra Burgess is a Loser fall into that spectrum? Maybe not squeaky clean, but a pretty entertaining and somewhat nuanced look at an awkward teen coming of age.
Sierra Burgess is a loser…kind of
Sierra Burgess (played by the girl who is Barb in “Stranger Things”… #justiceforbarb) is a mildly overweight, glasses-wearing braniac with loving but famous parents and a great guy best friend (who is, refreshingly, not gay).
Despite her average looks and total nerd status at her high school, she’s pretty confident. Even the sick burns from ultra-popular cheerleader Veronica don’t really bring her down.
But then Veronica meanly gives out Sierra’s phone number as her own to a guy as a joke.
When the guy, Jamey, texts Sierra thinking he’s texting Veronica, Sierra plays along and pretends she is in fact Veronica. Which makes things pretty complicated when Sierra and Jamey start to fall for each other, despite not having actually met.
Stereotypes turned on their head
One of the things that makes this movie a little more enjoyable, despite the predictability of the main plotline, is that none of these typical high school characters end up being so typical after all.
Sierra is both loser and confident kid, who doesn’t care what people think of her and yet can’t bring herself to reveal her true identity to the guy she’s fallen for.
Jamey is a jock but he hangs out with some wierdo friends instead of with the other footballer players. And despite being good-looking himself, he’s the kind of guy who is more attracted to a fantastic personality in a girl than to cheerleader looks.
Mean girl Veronica has a complicated home-life and, in one of the more surprising turns of the plot, starts to develop into a less shallow, much more caring person as the result of spending time with Sierra.
And even Sierra’s best friend Dan is a non-typical character – he’s the “guy best friend” and seems like they could have easily made him obviously gay to fit the trope that’s popular these days, but instead he’s just kind of weird and happens to not be into Sierra romantically (he also has some of the funniest lines in the movie).
It’s rated TV-14, mostly for language and sexual references, as well as some teen partying. And it feels fairly clean, with no sex scenes or anything, but there were a few references that felt a little icky.
For instance, even as Veronica starts growing in her character, she’s still on the more sexually loose side. So we get an unfortunate result of her sleeping with someone who doesn’t like her that much, and it’s made to seem like not a very big deal.
This is definitely one of the better Netflix young adult films. Not terribly dirty, fairly original characters, and a pretty entertaining hour and forty-five minutes.