Jessica Darling's It List

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Jessica Darling's It List Movie Poster Image
Uneven junior high coming-of-age tale has comic stereotypes.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 79 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 27 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages being true to oneself -- finding and following the path that best represents your own specialness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite being given very bad advice, Jessica discovers that being true to her own values is the best path to follow. Many young female characters are consumed by looks, popularity, boys, and "perfection"; these characters are shown to be insecure and in desperate need of approval. Some learn important lessons; others do not. Adults (parents and teachers), with few exceptions, are caricatures: exaggerated, one-dimensional, and often foolish. Ethnically diverse cast.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jessica Darling's It List is a movie based on the book for older kids and tweens by Megan McCafferty. The book was marketed as a "prequel" to the five earlier Jessica Darling books (such as Second Helpings), which took its young heroine through high school and college and was directed at teens. In this story, Jessica is on the brink of junior high school, confronted with finding her values and her place in that emotionally charged, preadolescent community. The "It List" is provided by the heroine's beautiful and outwardly successful older sister and is aimed at providing Jessica with the tools for achieving the three "P's" -- popularity, prettiness, and perfection. Filled with familiar stereotypes (the snobby girls, the "future nots," and the "not-nots") the film is family-friendly and ethnically diverse and delivers a positive message.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 and 11-year-old Written byAandJsDad June 23, 2016

Great for Family Movie Night!

Gotta say I disagree with the "official" review. I watched this movie with my 11 year old daughter and two of her friends who are all about to start... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byjerseymom June 23, 2016

Relatable, realistic and really fun!

I watched this with a group of mothers and their daughters all aged between 9-13 years old and they absolutely adored this movie! This movie ISN'T about be... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBunnyCC101 February 9, 2020

Jessica Darling's It List: A false portrayal of middle school

Jessica Darling's It List is about a girl just starting seventh grade with her best friend. As she stays the same, her friend becomes a who... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byEmilyRichards2 November 24, 2017

Low-Budget Cliche

With dry humor, horrible acting, and stereotypes so old they should be dead, this movie SCREAMS low-budget. Seriously, they had like fifty kids play an entire s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jessica Darling (Chloe East) is anxiously awaiting the first day of junior high school in JESSICA DARLING'S IT LIST. She only has one friend going to the same school, but luckily it's her best friend, Bridget (Emma Rayne Lyle). So when Jessica's beautiful, collegiate older sister Bethany (Blair Fowler) unexpectedly arrives to show her the ropes before school starts, Jessica is open, wide-eyed, and willing. Bethany hands her little sister a written "It List." On it is everything she'll need to meet the challenge. All Jessica has to do is follow four easy steps to achieve wonderful success in her new school: It's about clothes, the cheer team, a first boyfriend, and the "in" clique. Jessica's wary but game. Unfortunately, Jessica's journey isn't quite as simple as Bethany made it sound. Jessica's not really interested in clothes; she's certainly not interested in boys, doesn't even know who's in the "in clique," and has never done a "cheer" in her life. When the big day arrives, Jessica learns that fitting in is never easy. Amid assorted wannabe girls, unorthodox teachers, iffy moments with Bridget, and what she thinks are her own shortcomings, and armed with an It List that doesn't suit her at all, Jessica embarks on a very bumpy adventure.

Is it any good?

Cheerful earnestness, a few solid performances, and a thoughtful message don't save this adaptation from predictability, amateurish caricatures, and overall uneven direction and production values. In attempting to keep the spirited tone of the book's first-person narrative intact while trying too hard to be quirky, it's hard to know whether the movie fell victim to the director's conceptual ideas or to the limitations of its actors and budget. Still, the appeal and honesty of both Chloe East's Jessica and Emma Rayne Lyle's Bridget, as well as the subject matter and message, may be enough for middle grade and tween girls.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies made from books. If you've already read the book, did the film capture the spirit and intent of the story? What did you like or not like about the adaptation? If you haven't read it, did this movie inspire you to check it out and/or read other Megan McCafferty books?

  • Think about the adults portrayed in this movie, most of whom were comic characters. Which, if any, felt real to you? Which, if any, would you have trusted with your confidences and gone to for help? Why?

  • How did the Jessica-Bridget friendship change over the course of this movie? What did they learn about each other? At the end of the movie, what clues did the filmmakers give you to tell you where their relationship was going?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comimg-of-age tales

Themes & Topics

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