Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 19, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Sierra Burgess is a Loser: Review

Sierra Burgess is a Loser: Review

5 mins read
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The trailer for one of Netflix’s most recent teen romcoms, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, caught my attention. A protagonist, and actor (Stranger Things’s Shannon Purser), who does not fit the traditional body expectations that so many leading ladies in this genre (and indeed, visual media in general) adhere to. And because this movie excited me so much, I only wish it had tried a little harder.

Shannon Purser, star of Sierra Burgess is a Loser

As an avid John Hughes fan, the soundtrack and overall aesthetic of this film certainly captured my heart. Music and cinematography that wouldn’t be out of place in any 80s dramedy permeates this film- the traditional ‘grand gesture’ that warrants the love interest’s forgiveness is, after all, a song that the eponymous Sierra writes herself. It is interesting that such a nostalgic aesthetic slots so perfectly into a film whose plot revolves around the pitfalls of technology. Then again, maybe my connotations come from Purser’s Molly Ringwald-esque hair.

For all its faults, Purser does shine in this film. She manages to perfectly capture the coy excitement that is communicating with a crush, particularly when it’s your first foray into romance as a young adult. But perhaps Sierra’s is not the best path to tread.

Remember the 80s nostalgia I referenced? Well, that includes the incredibly doubtful and manipulative situation that leads to a supposedly ‘happy’ relationship. Catfishing is bad. If you have feelings for someone, lying to them, let alone pretending to be another person is not only not going to end with a new relationship, but is just a cruel thing to do. The bitterness slips through throughout the film, too. Homophobia and transphobia – Sierra and her enemy-turned-friend Veronica are made fun of for ‘looking like a man’, and ‘switching teams’ respectively, and the film portrays these as insults, things to be ashamed about, rather than the perfectly ordinary circumstances they are.

Speaking of ‘switching teams’, google this film’s title and you’ll find at least a hundred think pieces dedicated to Sierra and Veronica’s friendship being a ‘true romance’ of the film. And if some narrative tweaks had been made, it could have been more than ‘a’ love story, but rather, ‘the’. In 2018, we’ve been given Love, Simon and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, witty and touching romcoms for a new generation of teenagers. Now we just need a love story for two teenage girls.

“So many romcoms that don’t have a lead that looks like Purser Can get away with manipulative love stories”

It is worth noting that I am holding this film to a standard of perfection (that is, apart from the homophobia and transphobia – that kind of writing is just poor). So many romcoms that don’t have a lead that looks like Purser can get away with manipulative love stories – simply because there are so many of them. The solution is to make more films with non-traditional beauties. Variety breeds interesting, thoughtful narratives, and removes the pressure for a ‘representative’ film to represent everything.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser did not live up to my expectations. But as a woman who has never really looked like a romcom protagonist, Purser still breaks my heart with her incredible delivery of the most relatable line in the entire film:

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a teenage girl and look like this?”

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