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After having a social media smash with To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Netflix picked the perfect time to release another modern teen dramedy in order to capitalize on the buzz that previous film landed. With Sierra Burgess is a Loser, the subscription streaming service looks to be further billing itself as a provider of films that are released on a Friday, only to blow up your Twitter feed with memes by Saturday. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like this film will get the royal Internet treatment, as good performances can't outrun an underdeveloped, yet promising script.
In the flick, Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) has issues and they involve her parents (Alan Ruck & Lea Thompson), getting into college, and dealing with the meanest girl in school (Kristine Froseth). Obviously, this is the perfect time for her to add a boy into the mix, and whether she likes it or not, that's exactly what happens when a random guy at school (Noah Centineo) starts texting her. There's only one problem: He thinks she's someone else, when in fact, Sierra Burgess isa Loser.
There are at least three stories that Sierra Burgess is a Loser could have taken to make one solid story for the film to tell. Between her conflict with her parents, the dual-stranded story detailing her texting relationship and her burgeoning friendship with the mean girl who started this chain of events, and the story of her path to college, there's a lot going on within this picture. Without the proper connective tissue to hold it together, the narrative becomes rather free-floating, leaving what you watch on the screen as a sort of scrapbook of good ideas clipped from other stories.
Which is even more of a shame when you really drill down into those unfinished ideas that Sierra Burgess Is A Loser ends up trying to use. In particular, the development between Shannon Purser's Sierra and Kristine Froseth's Veronica is a story that could have gone really far had it been the one the film focused its full attention on. The evolution of their adversarial bully/bullied relationship into a sincere friendship is a refreshing beat that shines brighter than the Cyrano De Bergerac act they try to pull, and the shift is one of the most believable we've seen in a teen movie twist.
Of course, the moments that do work in this story are thanks in part to the cast that was brought in to help tell the story of Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Not only are Purser and Froseth's featured performances noteworthy, but Noah Centineo (coming straight off of that To All The Boys I've Loved Before buzz) plays a jock/geek hybrid that shuffles off the typical and turns out to be really sweet. Also, R.J. Cyler's best friend character threatens to steal the film from underneath his castmates every time he's onscreen thanks to his comedic timing. All in all, the side performances work.
Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a film that genre fans should be able to watch with great ease, as it pays lip service to the conventions of the genre, while injecting enough new blood to feel somewhat fresh. But even the staunchest of fans will be able to see that the playbook on this story is a bit of a jumbled mess that just barely lands on its concluding note. Movie fans who aren't considered teen rom-com obsessives are pretty much given a free pass to check out, but if you do happen to still be curious, there's some good material mixed to help put the edge on.