‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ misses the mark as a teen rom-com

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After a successful release of the Netflix original “To All the Boys I Loved Before,” the company unveiled yet another teen rom-com on Sept. 7 titled “Sierra Burgess is a Loser.” The film, directed by Ian Samuels, is a teen comedy about insecurity, friendship and finding love. However, the story and themes are completely overshadowed due to the fact that the central protagonist, Sierra Burgess, knowingly catfishes her crush.

Sierra Burgess is played by Shannon Purser, previously known from her role as Barb in “Stranger Things.” When the audience first meets Sierra Burgess, she is well-mannered, has a positive relationship with her best friend and is confident in herself.

Sierra’s world turns upside down when popular cheerleader Veronica, played by Kristine Froseth, gives her number to rival school’s football player Jamey out of cruel intentions. Sierra battles her own insecurities while also accepting that she is the school’s biggest loser. Instead of admitting that she is not Veronica, Sierra Burgess plays along in order to find love. In other words, she catfishes Jamey, played by Noah Centineo.

While hiding her true identity, Sierra Burgess turns to Veronica to help keep the charade, forming an unlikely friendship between the school loser and popular cheerleader. After many turns of events and revelations of identities, Sierra Burgess ultimately wins the guy, teaching viewers that what’s on the inside matters…or that catfishing your crush has its rewards.

The film has a great storyline, and Ian Samuels directed it wonderfully. However, the movie forgets one thing: catfishing should not be rewarded. The movie has messages about friendship and outward beauty, but these positive themes are presented at the expense of Jamey. One concerning scene is when Jamey is tricked into kissing Sierra when he thinks it is Veronica. This action makes Sierra and Veronica out to be highly manipulative and dismisses the need for consent.

The movie would have had a better chance if it focused on the girls’ unlikely friendship instead of the romance. The story between Veronica and Sierra is heartwarming. The school’s cheerleader, who previously bullied Sierra, is revealed to have a not-so-glamorous life after all, once again pointing to the theme that outward beauty is not everything. The story takes a stance against bullying while showing that people struggle more in their personal lives than others can see.

Putting aside the acceptance of and even glorifying of catfishing in today’s culture, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is actually a fantastic film. The acting portrays high school students in a cheesy yet fun way, and the film has a great soundtrack for those into 80’s techno music. Shannon Purser did an excellent job as Sierra Burgess, focusing on details of facial expressions and emotions.

The story takes the audience back to high school with jocks, cheerleaders, nerds and geeks. This is the time where friends would tease friends for their crush and bullying would go unnoticed. Everyone had a different experience in high school, and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” manages to illustrate this in each character.