Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser

Sierra, played by Shannon Purser (Barbara in Stranger Things) is intelligent but unpopular and wants to go to Stanford University. She doesn’t fit traditional beauty standards but she’s witty and charming. Mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) does her utmost to ruin Sierra’s life with verbal bullying, cruel taunts on her appearance. When Jamey (Noah Centineo) asks for Veronica’s number, she gives Sierra’s number in an effort to embarass her. This lie leads to a rapport developing between Jamie and Sierra over text, thinking it’s Veronica. Sierra starts to like Jamie. Dan (RJ Cyler), Sierra’s best friend warns her against it, calls it “catfishing”, which is very illegal!

Despite understand what the film was trying to say in regards to “beauty within, not outside”, I can’t endorse Sierra as a heroine. She catfished Jamey so bad. He got got. I think it’s what we’d have called a mean girl back in the days of the 2004 film. Additionally, any sane person wouldn’t have gone out with her after she built that relationship on lies and deception. Or perhaps I don’t know people at all? The scene with Jamey’s deaf brother rubbed me the wrong way; he was used simply as a plot device and I found that a bit insensitive. Unlike the 2018 horror film A Quiet Place in which the daughter was an actually character, not simply used to fulfil a function to never be seen again.

From Stranger Things to Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Shannon Purser gives a great performance
(Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Netflix)

Shannon Purser is Sierra, the loser, an A-grade student with one friend and insecure about her looks. That insecurity is surrounded by the daily ritualistic torments of Veronica (Froseth), the mean girl of the school. Veronica gives Jamey Sierra’s number instead of her own after he hits on her at a diner. He’s the quarterback of the rival American football team. And hence begins this chick flick rom-com that just about sustains itself for its 100-minute run time. On my first watch, I liked it. On the second it was just okay / boring, and the pacing wracked me off, trawling my way through this YA romance. Despite the solid performances from the cast members, the story was just ridiculous and it wouldn’t have been so bad if the ending was so believable. It was just so 1950s Disney.

Sierra makes a deal with Veronica to enact this trick (catfish). She helps Veronica with her classes whilst Veronica pretends to be the version of Veronica that Jamey thinks he’s talking to. This ends up with the duo having some common ground, very much in the landscape of Instagram culture, selfies and social media. Much of the plot takes place on apps and a lot of YA films these days follow this post-Facebook tradition. Reacting to texts on their iPhones like they’ve won the lottery, it feels like they’re embodying the stereotype of what our grandparents’ generation believe millennials to be – a soulless generation completely barren, living in screens unable to hold a conversation.

Sierra (Shannon Purser) and best friend Dan (RJ Cyler)
(Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Netflix)

Performances aside, this film is dry and static. It’s not the worst film I’ve seen this year, how they portrayed Sierra as hero was wrong. She’s as much a bad person as Veronica.