I think there are a lot of us who reminisce about our high school experience with mixed emotions. For those of us who weren’t beautiful and popular, or big and strong, it was a pretty turbulent journey. Getting through it was like making the trek to Mordor and completing the task of destroying the “One Ring” without a “Sam” to lift you up when you faltered. It was a trial by fire; either you made it out unscathed or you didn’t. But let’s face it, none of us really emerges unscathed, right? For this reason, I’m a sucker for any well-written story about a character’s struggle along the same path that many of us have already traversed. Enter Sierra Burgess is a Loser.
I’d been waiting to check out this new Netflix original film since I glimpsed a segment about it on KTLA’s morning news. The ultimate draw for me was Shannon Purser, who most of you will remember as Barbara (“Barb”) from Stranger Things. I loved her in season one of that series (even though she was only in a few episodes), and was happy to see her taking the lead role in another Netflix project. Rounding out the cast are Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future trilogy), Loretta Devine (Grey’s Anatomy), Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – also a Netflix film), Kristine Froseth, and RJ Cyler (Power Rangers). Take a gander at the trailer below if this is the first you’re hearing about it….
I think the film’s writer, Lindsey Beer, nailed the inner turmoil that most of us struggled with in high school; that feeling of being a prisoner of your own skin and not having the emotional or mental wherewithal to move past it. It’s a horrible thing to wake up every morning and have your first thought be: I’m not good enough, no matter what I do. Of course, you might think that some of this self-loathing can be whittled down to a simple case of our own misguided thoughts about how others perceive us; but you’d be wrong. Negative self-perceptions don’t just spring up like iPhone notifications. The ways in which we observe ourselves, and the level of value which undergirds our existence, to us, is very much affected by external entities. If your self-worth is verbally degraded continually, for years on end, eventually the voice in your head will capitulate and concur with the assessment. Shannon Purser took this script and brought the performance home beautifully. Every doubt she uttered, and every hesitation she expressed, was like an echo from my own voice, all those long years ago. A tear may, or may not have, been shed. I’ll take the Fifth on that one. But in all seriousness, Sierra Burgess was just a really great story about many things. It touched upon different facets of life that aren’t merely relegated to growing pains of adolescence: self-esteem, love, friendship, loneliness, acceptance – concepts which continue to permeate our lives long after high school has left its mark on our psyche.
I’m sure that you, like I, have a laundry-list of shows and movies to watch. I’m also certain that it’s possibly the length of Bilbo’s and the Dwarves’ contract. However, this is one story that you should set aside some time to enjoy; maybe even scoot its place on your list up a few notches closer to the top. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is another win for Netflix. Trust me on that. Like Spock, I cannot tell a lie.