By Daniel Hart
Published: September 9, 2017 (Last updated: February 8, 2024)

This Netflix Original Movie focuses on student Dani Barnes (Nesta Cooper), an overachiever with a bullied past about to make her way to U.C. Davis. After getting romantic with her childhood crush, the meanest girl in school Alexa Medina (Alicia Sanz), befriends Dani despite her being bullied by her in the past. Dani begins to like the attention that Alexa brings, which ultimately could be her downfall. The premise forgets to mention that for most of the movie you have to deal with insufferable characters that you would not dream of being in company with in real life.

A movie that involves a hashtag in its title is obviously going to involve social media. #REALITYHIGH’s core plot device uses a watered down version of Instagram, Facebook and other social platforms to narrow in on a character. It is either used to reward the character or damage their popularity. This means that for a majority of the movie, the characters have a desire of increased popularity and social status. There is a portrayal of this sickly student culture. The selling point is Dani, a lead character that does not aspire to sell a form of her ‘personality’ and become a social media star. She makes it known to the audience that she does not consider herself to be “cool”.

I am making this movie sound way deeper than it actually is. In reality (not an intentional pun) it provides a narrative that barely scratches the surface. Instead, #REALITYHIGH focuses on how young and modern this movie should feel. Text message graphics, social media screenshots and references to social statuses are all part of this teen drama. There are moments where it moves from one scene to another driven by generic pop music. This is not to say that it will not be liked. More that it is noticeable.


Despite my reservations with this movie, Nesta Cooper, who plays Dani Barnes, actually puts in a solid performance to represent her character. She plays the student who is oddly shy at first but becomes insecurely wild from an immediate social life. The real shame is that all the other performances are either typically generic for this type of film or not very good. Coupled with the fact that some of the scenes felt empty and pointless and diverted itself away from the point of the narrative. Near the end, you are getting a full story on another couple. Neither person was integral to the story from the start.

#REALITYHIGH shows the reality of the popular life when you come from the other side, the bullied and less cool side so to speak. There is something in the story that is interesting if you can ignore the way the movie has been made. Unfortunately, in the end, this is not a good movie and whilst the principles are set in the narrative, it just does not deliver the story properly


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