When you strip everything away, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a movie about… catfishing.
Accidental catfishing, but catfishing none the less.
Allow me to explain.
Sierra Burgess is your average teenage girl.
By average, I mean she’s not particularly the most beautiful nor the most popular in her year. She goes to school, studies hard and plays the flute in the marching band. She has one good friend, Dan (played by RJ Cyler), and they bond over how crap high school can be.
What makes Sierra extraordinary, though, is her confidence. Despite being mercilessly bullied by the film’s ‘mean girl’ Veronica (Kristine Froseth), Sierra couldn’t really care less what anyone thinks of her.
But all this changes when a handsome football player from a rival school, Jamey (played by To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Noah Centineo) starts texting Sierra out of the blue. Only, he thinks he’s texting someone else.
You can watch the trailer for Sierra Burgess Is A Loser below. Post continues after video.
What follows is a dilemma so many of us have grappled with ourselves – could someone like that ever love someone like me?
After realising Jamey actually thinks he’s texting Veronica, Sierra enlists the help of her bully to stop Jamey from finding out who he’s really falling in love with (i.e. the definition of catfishing).
The film, which is one of many rom-coms released by the streaming service in 2018, made me cringe, cover my eyes and scream with laughter. I couldn’t wait to devour it as soon as it dropped on Netflix last night.
It also made me feel deeply uncomfortable.
That’s why I’m not sure if it would’ve been the very best or the very worst film for my 16-year-old self to have seen.
Immediately, I identified with Shannon Purser’s (of Stranger Things and Riverdale fame) Sierra. Not just because, like me, she has red hair, freckles and a body society says can’t wear a crop top.
When your only physical role model growing up is Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, it’s easy to feel like no one could ever find you attractive.
But the fact Jamey fell in love with Sierra’s personality made my heart feel so warm and heavy with nostalgia – it’s the kind of thing I wish could’ve happened to me, if only someone had seen past my freckles and braces.
At the centre of the film is a narrative about breaking the idea that an attractive popular person couldn’t possibly fall for someone who’s not. Like many other Hollywood movies, it’s based on an 1800s play, Cyrano de Bergerac, about a poet who’s too ashamed to tell the woman he loves how he feels because of his big nose.
Although this is meant to be empowering, just like the talent show The Voice, where contestants are judged purely on their voice rather than their appearance, it feels a little counterproductive.
If what you look like really doesn't matter, why couldn't Jamey notice Sierra playing in the marching band at a football game over a cheerleader like Veronica?
Then there's the issue of consent. Without spoiling the film, there comes a point in the movie where Sierra pretending to be someone else to make Jamey fall for her crosses over from being a cute, romantic game to feeling exploitative and deceitful.
In particular, one moment is hard to watch and makes you consider if it's Sierra or Jamey who's really hard done by.
Unlike Netflix's other recent rom-com To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser doesn't leave you feeling like a giddy high school student. Arguably, it's not entirely this movie's fault - having the same male lead as its predecessor means the two movies were always going to be compared to one another.
It's warm, funny and completely watchable, and the feeling of nostalgia is there, especially if you were always more of a Sierra than a Veronica in your teen years.
But deep down, something just doesn't quite sit right.
To me, that says we need a little bit more from romantic comedies in 2018.
Have you watched Sierra Burgess Is A Loser yet? What did you think?