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Originally, I dismissed the advertising for Sierra Burgess. I saw Netflix’s ads and wrote it off as just another oversimplified high school movie. However, I decided to give it a chance since I am always dying to see more “plus-sized” representation in the media. (I will forever and always put “plus-sized” in “quotation marks.”)
At first, I was delighted by the witty remarks, the interesting family dynamic between Sierra and her parents, and the cinematic skill. Like many great movies, Sierra Burgess pokes fun at many truths of the world. When Sierra finds herself in a quirky situation over text with a boy, her best friend Dan suggests her actions may be illegal. She dryly replies, “the law is willfully behind technology, so I don’t know if that’s true.”
There is also a Heathers-esque dynamic with the head cheerleader Veronica, who effortlessly sputters ridiculous lines like “if you think I’m gonna host a pity party for a reject like you, then you’ve added crazy pills to your hormone pills, when you really need diet pills.” This stuff is laugh-out-loud incredible if you have a darker sense of humor.
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If Ten Things I Hate About You is a modern Taming of the Shrew, then Sierra Burgess is a modern Cyrano de Bergerac (the most famous translation of the classic play is written by an Anthony Burgess–coincidence?) The film maintains the original message of the classic play, a familiar commentary on society and judging books by their covers. There is a layer of social commentary about the distance technology causes, though–at one point, Sierra tells Dan that she “was just kind of relying on [her] generation’s total disregard for basic human interaction.”
In the end, though, Sierra Burgess sloppily tries to tell a story of self-acceptance by playing into the all-too-obvious high school stereotypes. There are some pleasant surprises, like the gorgeous cheerleader’s rough home life and revealing backstory. But the plot grows thinner. Sierra digs herself deeper into her own lie, even becoming a bully to Veronica after their “unlikely” friendship had blossomed. The once-excellent cinematography becomes predictable in a few suspenseful shots that say so much…yet so little.
When Sierra gets the boy at the end, it sends a mixed message. Are we supposed to be on Sierra’s side at this point?
Audience members like Maddie Anderlick tweeted their reactions: “Sierra Burgess is a Loser was way creepy” and “Sierra Burgess is not the plus size representation we asked for.”
While Sierra Burgess isn’t the worst film we’ve seen, it’s a bit irresponsible. Sierra’s loneliness and frankly creepy behavior can easily be interpreted as a representation for girls her size, especially timid ones. I guess I just hope we can do better.
University Class of '21
Just writing a role for myself in this world...