Neflix’s newest original romantic comedy follows the life of Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), a high school student who, in the midst of preparing for her college admittance into Stanford University, falls in love with Jamey (Noah Centineo), a classic jock with a distinct heart. Their initial relationship, however, is built on an unhealthy foundation.
Sierra’s greatest bully, Veronica (Kristine Froseth), had given Sierra’s number to Jamey in order to dismiss his romantic advances. Jamey texted Sierra believing that he was speaking to Veronica the entire time, and Sierra, enchanted by her admiration for Jamey, went as far as to actively catfish Jamey by convincing Veronica to send photos to him, FaceTime and even go on dates with Jamey.
This film is painfully unrealistic. Ironically, the filmmakers consciously tried to make it relatable by casting a lead who did not fit society’s traditional skinny standard. However, the insincerity of the script and lackluster attention to emotions, particularly those of guilt and forgiveness, completely override their appropriate efforts to cast a “normal” girl.
No character in this film suffered consequences as severe as they would have outside of the film. In one scene, Veronica agrees to go on a date with Jamey, which Sierra secretly supervises. Jamey leans in to kiss Veronica, who quickly insists that he closes his eyes. She calls Sierra over to kiss Jamey instead. Sierra then runs off before Jamey could ever realize that he indeed had not kissed who he had thought he was kissing.
Although the moment was clearly magical for Sierra, the kiss she shared with Jamey was completely inappropriate. They abused his trust. They essentially manipulated him into doing something purely for Sierra’s desires, but somehow she was rewarded for this.
The film had a happy ending which is to be expected. After Jamey found out he had been fooled to believe he was speaking to Veronica instead of Sierra, despite all she had done including faking FaceTime calls and kissing him without his awareness, he still came to her doorstep, flower in hand, to take her to the homecoming dance. There was clear cinematic idealism at play.
The only realistic element this film possesses is the pressure a student feels when preparing to apply to college. As Sierra decides that Stanford University is her dream school, she realizes that good grades are not enough to get accepted. The viewers then watch her try to join clubs she is completely uninterested in simply for the resume boost.
This is unfortunately completely normal, as tons of students commit to clubs and events with only the intention of adding to their resumes. Sierra did not even know what she wanted to do in college, but she wanted to go to Stanford, probably due to societal views on prestigious and name-recognizable colleges.
The second Sierra fell in love, school became a lower priority. She decided that committing to her heart was a bit more important than committing to college. However, it is not about the college someone goes to or how they get there, it is about whatever will make them happiest and Sierra was privileged enough to learn that.