Revisiting ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the garb of a teenager
-By Ashima Grover
‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ pertaining to the adolescent rom-com genre was one of the highly anticipated movie of 2018. It was released on the platform famous for its binge worthy content i.e. Netflix on September 7,2018. Other Netflix movies of the same genre like “To all the boy I’ve loved before” and “Set it Up” set the tone for this movie. The movie’s starring cast is in stark contrast with what a big let down the movie was eventually. Despite the lead roles being played by Shannon Purser (who rose to fame after her role as “Barb” in Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ series) and Noah Centineo (who became a teen heartthrob after the success of Netflix’s ‘To all the boys I’ve loved before’) the movie falls short of all the glitter that it promised.
The movie begins with Purser’s character “Sierra” claiming that she is a “magnificent beast” and ends with proving it, quite literally. Her character is depicted as an intellectual one yet a hackneyed representation as that of every other ugly duckling to swan story. The story focuses on Sierra as a person who doesn’t conform to the conventional definition of beauty and seeks to promote body positivity. She is stuck in the cycle of head-on collisions with the mean and popular queen bee Veronica, who never misses a chance to berate Sierra. In an attempt to embarrass Sierra, Veronica passes Sierra’s number to Centineo’s character, Jamey. In the belief that Veronica has given her own number to him, Jamey texts Sierra. She in turn responds by catfishing him, giving in to her insecurities and loneliness. Furthermore, she decides to tutor Veronica, forgetting all derisive comments that she threw her way before, in exchange of help to continue her texting relationship with Jamey.
In this process the two girls start going through personal changes and also develop a friendship, which then becomes the highlight of the story. However during this time period we are also introduced to Veronica’s toxic mother, hence making it clear as to why she behaves the way she does. This might call for the audience’s sympathy initially but it also twists certain morals. It seems to legitimize the homophobic slurs passed by Veronica.
This is just the beginning of all problems. If catfishing Jamey wasn’t enough, Sierra and Veronica plan on a date with Jamey. As Veronica spends the evening with Jamey, Sierra lurks in the shadows. Although Jamey feels uncomfortable throughout the date with Veronica he is further fooled into kissing Sierra without his consent, as per Veronica’s plan. All of these moves, though seem as a result of a child’s play, they are again an attempt to masquerade Sierra’s intentions simply because she is a plus size.
The movie captures the millennial aspect of texting very well due to the meticulous acting and portrayal by both Noah Centineo and Shannon Purser. Both are seen rolling on their beds as they await the other’s response and choose their own words carefully, all arising out of teenage infatuation. Nevertheless, the movie just keeps losing its charm as it progresses. Sierra ends up making fun of deaf children in an attempt to hide her true identity as she comes face to face with Jamey, accompanied by her best friend Dan. Even her best friend is completely omitted from her life as if he never existed, once she embarks on the path of losing. Meanwhile as Sierra and Veronica are controlling the spotlight due to their escalating friendship, (which is probably the only positive thing that emerges from this movie) it doesn’t take long for that to fall in the pit too.
Jamey kisses Veronica before the football game, which was never the intention of Veronica. On seeing this Sierra concocts a twisted scheme to bring down Veronica by basically cyber bullying her. Thereafter Jamey cuts ties with both the girls, which he should’ve done a long time ago, only if he’d known the truth. To apologize for her actions Sierra then writes a song called “sunflower” highlighting what a misfit she is and sends it to Veronica.
Veronica is that one character who undergoes a major character development and despite the act pulled by Sierra to humiliate her publicly, she ends up helping her “friend” by sending the song to Jamey.
The movie does come to a “happy ending” wherein Jamey takes Sierra to the dance and Sierra and Veronica reunite, but all this “happiness” just leaves a sour taste in the viewers’ mouths. The story apparently also tried to bring back the nostalgic vibe. Alan Ruck’s presence as Sierra’s father, reignited all the memories of John Hughes’ 80s teen classics like Ferris Bueller and Sixteen Candles, but the comparison only led to further disappointment.
In the end it all feels baseless as the electronic conversations that paved the way for Sierra and Jamey’s love story were about fickle concepts or a mere exchange of memes. The only emotional bond that was worth noticing was that of Sierra and Veronica, which also breaks easily. The story began with propagating body positivity and the idea of inner beauty which is all lost in the end. Sierra only ended up unleashing her inner beast and still got a happy ending, simply because she wrote a song and demands our sympathy for the sake of it.