Shannon Purser in Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Shannon Purser in Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Photo courtesy of Netflix, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

How bad is Sierra Burgess is a Loser? Let me count the ways. On September 7th, Netflix reached the end of their successful run of original rom-coms (Set it Up, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) when they dropped their new movie, Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Ok, so the name itself should tip you off that this is going to be a bad movie, but the cast distracts you from that. It’s got Noah Centineo from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Shannon Purser from Stranger Things, Chrissy Metz from This is Us, Loretta Devine from Grey’s Anatomy, and Lea Thompson from Switched at Birth. With an all-star cast like that (of the small-screen variety), how could you go wrong? Personally, I watched the movie because I wanted to see Centineo be just as cute as he was in To All the BoysTo All the Boys is Netflix’s other high school-set rom-com from earlier this summer, which was a major hit. However, everything To All the Boys did right, Sierra Burgess did wrong. Let’s go over it.

Top of the list: this movie is offensive. Firstly, it glorifies catfishing. The movie is about how a boy, Jamey (Centineo), thinks he’s texting this hot cheerleader, Veronica (Kristine Forseth), except he has the wrong number, and is actually texting “ugly” nerd, Sierra Burgess (Purser). When Sierra realizes how hot Jamey is, she decides to pretend to be Veronica. She even manages to get Veronica on board and help her deceive Jamey, which is the movie’s attempt at showing us female friendship. So I feel like we can all agree that catfishing is not cool, and yet everyone in the movie just readily forgives Sierra for doing it, so that the movie could have its happy ending.

The movie is all about looks. The entire film is based on the premise that Sierra is ugly, and so has no choice but to do what she’s doing to get the guy. Sierra constantly blames all of her misfortunes on her not being thin or pretty. At one point Metz’s character thinks that Sierra is a lesbian just because she’s “butch”. And no, the movie doesn’t wind up in a place where Sierra realizes that looks aren’t what matter. What happens is that other people learn to love her despite her looks. So yes, great morals to teach teenagers.

The movie trivializes slut-shaming. This is another one of those moments where Sierra does something horrible, but people just forgive her for it. After thinking that Veronica is trying to steal Jamey out from under her, Sierra hacks into Veronica’s Instagram account and posts a picture of Veronica with a guy, with the embarrassing caption of how he dumped her (information that Veronica told Sierra in confidence). The picture gets put up on the big screen at a football game for the entire school to see. This is the meanest, nastiest thing Sierra could have done, and the film expects for us to root for her after that? Honestly, Sierra’s just a bad person. There isn’t a single moment in this movie where she doesn’t choose the selfish route. Raise your hand if you’re not into pitting women against each other, slut-shaming, and cyber bullying.

It’s offensive to deaf people. Yup, you wouldn’t believe how they got themselves into that one. Basically, Sierra accidentally runs into Jamey at the park. He doesn’t know what she looks like, but she’s worried he’ll recognize her voice from their phone conversations, so she pretends to be deaf. Turns out, Jamey’s little brother is deaf (Cochise Zornoza, who actually is deaf in real life), so Sierra then has to hide the fact that she doesn’t know sign language. Let’s be clear: pretending to be deaf is not funny, and you shouldn’t hire deaf actors so that they can facilitate your jokes.

The movie also completely ignores issues of consent. At one point, Veronica tricks Jamey into kissing Sierra instead. The fact that Jamey thinks he’s kissing a completely different person apparently never occurred to Netflix as being a problem.

Ok, so now that we’ve finally gotten through the ways in which this movie is offensive, we can get into the more technical reasons of why it’s bad. The writing is terrible. This may be the most cringe-worthy movie I’ve ever watched, and that starts with the writing. It’s incredibly cheesy and relies on cliches. All of Sierra and Jamey’s conversations sound like a bad first date. What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite color? If you could be an animal, what animal would you be? What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s endless, and boring. At one point, Sierra texts Veronica to ask Jamey if a star knows that it shines. I can promise you, I almost threw up right then and there. It also attempts to portray all of that adorable awkwardness of teenagers flirting, except it never quite achieves the adorable part, so it just winds up being awkward. There are many scenes of Jamey and Sierra each pacing around trying to decide what to answer each other, and waiting for a text back. I can’t just blame the writers on this one, the editors should have left this footage on the cutting room floor so that we don’t all blow our brains out waiting for them to text each other back.

The acting is bad, but given the material it’s hard to tell if the actors could have done any better with what they were given. All of these actors have shown themselves to do a fantastic job when given good content to work with. Purser, however really was terrible in this movie, and it’s hard to get past that. It seems to be that Centineo is starting to get type-cast as the romantic lovable lug in romantic comedies, but if you’re going to be type-cast, you might as well make sure the roles are worth it. This one, I can assure you, is not. It’s unclear to me why any of these amazing actors signed onto this movie after having read the script, but it’s hard to judge, as all these people do have to find work.

What does this movie do well? Whoever did Forseth’s makeup did a really good job. I also enjoyed Devine’s portrayal of Sierra’s English teacher. She has the only witty lines in the whole movie, and she nails them. That’s about all I have to say.

This movie is cringe-worthy, offensive, and amateur. I cannot recommend it to anyone.