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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is a high school-set romantic comedy about a teen (Shannon Purser) on the fringes of the social structure who pretends via text and telephone to be her beautiful, popular rival for the affections of the boy she's crazy about. That Cyrano de Bergerac-like plot, in addition to the movie's commentary on the split between truth and appearance, heightens the main character's self-discovery. Characters include a "mean girl" (with a twist), a manipulative young sexual predator, and a reliable best friend. Though there's no nudity or sexual activity, characters kiss and talk about sex, and in one case, have had a sexual experience off-screen. Characters trick another character into kissing someone he wasn't expecting to kiss. Occasional swearing includes "s--t," "bastard," "ass," "jizz," and "t-ts." A teen party scene includes underage drinking, drinking games, and some drunkenness; a girl vomits. Fans of Purser, who plays Barb on Stranger Things, will be very interested to see her in this leading role.
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What's the story?
Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) is definitely not mainstream in SIERRA BURGESS IS A LOSER. But she's definitely not a "loser" either. Smart, funny, and spirited, she wears her less-than-perfect body and her unfashionable wardrobe without apology. While she might envy the popular girls, of whom Veronica (Kristine Froseth) is the malicious leader, she doesn't really want to be one. Sierra knows she's better than that; still, it's hard. In a fit of meanness, Veronica hands Sierra's cell number to the very adorable Jamey (Noah Centineo), pretending it's hers. Sparkling texts and phone calls follow. The smitten Sierra can't bring herself to tell Jamey that she isn't Veronica. Matters get out of hand when Jamey, falling hard for his "digi-pal," wants to meet in person. It's a comedy of errors, complicated by Sierra making an unholy alliance with Veronica so that each can attain her heart's desire.
Is it any good?
A truly grounded, engaging performance by Shannon Purser, along with a new twist on the Cyrano theme, keep things moving and emotions ascending in this inventive teen romance with a soul. What's more, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is graced by the presence of Lea Thompson and Alan Ruck, 1980s and 1990s teen stars now playing parents, as well as Chrissy Metz in a savagely unhappy turn, and RJ Cyler bringing his unique take on what could have been a caricature. The movie also takes a closer look at the "mean girl" who helps drive the plot. While Veronica is still imperious, spontaneously cruel upon occasion, and shallow, she's given a backstory and a home that makes her behavior understandable. She learns something from Sierra, and it changes her for the better; it gives the film more depth, too.
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is not without flaws. One has to "buy" the basic premise and some outsized plot twists, but that's what makes it a comedy. And the scenes that lead to the resolution are a stretch, at best. Overall, as Netflix continues to offer teen-friendly romcoms, this one is a solid entry.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how cyberbullying impacts the plot of Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. How does Sierra feel about what she's done? This film helps clarify the fact that a simple click cannot be taken back and can have disastrous results. Why is it important to be aware of the consequences of internet-delivered emotions, such as anger?
In recent years movies for teens often use classic tales as the basis for their stories. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is a new take on Cyrano de Bergerac. Find out what famous literary works Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You were based on. Why do you think some storylines are always popular and can be updated successfully?
How did the filmmakers change the character of the traditional "mean girl" in this movie? What did they want you to know about Veronica? Did it change your perception of her? In what way?
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