Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is nostalgic, modern, funny and poignant; an entertaining film that carries many valuable lessons
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser brings to reality a modern retelling of the famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac. The tale follows the unconventional Sierra, an out of luck nerd suffering the repercussions of not conforming to the “popular kids” ideas of validation. Following a case of mistaken identity an unlikely pair work together to help Sierra woo her newfound crush.
Netflix’s original movie Sierra Burgess Is A Loser on the surface is just another teen coming-of-age story. A quirky girl struggling to fit in, a mean head cheerleader and a handsome jock, a classic concoction sure to be familiar with the masses. Yet scratch the surface even a little bit and this film becomes so much more. Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a story of self-confidence and identity, exploring the social pressures that all too often befall teenage students in the modern age. It provides a new look into more than just our protagonist’s story, an exploration of the means behind our secondary characters’ behaviours.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a movie based on a play that is over a hundred years old, and yet it perfectly translates to modern day scenarios. In Cyrano de Bergerac, the lead manages to disguise his identity by communicating only through letters, except in this film the letters have been traded in for text messages. Sierra Burgess Is A Loser scrutinises the use of modern communication by showcasing the consequences of catfishing. Sierra is a girl with an outer confidence that would shut down any bully and she would happily contradict anyone she thought to be wrong. This persona soon starts to shatter when she is faced with new conflicts that force her to evaluate her worth and question her validity.
Under the pressure of talking to a crush, Sierra finds herself depending on the younger generations disregard for real human interaction to continue her anonymity. Although this cannot be sustained for very long, her crush Jamey soon starts to ask her to video message and then eventually asks her out on a date. This pushes Sierra to pursue help from the “hottest girl” in school, Veronica. Sierra asks Veronica to act as the face of her catfishing quest with little consideration of how she is going to maintain a relationship that should naturally progress further than the screen.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser offers an intriguing look into the lives of the characters that usually don’t get a chance to be anything more than one-dimensional narrative pushers. After Sierra joins forces with the high school bully she soon starts to realise that Veronica is the way she is due to the influence of her home surroundings. Veronica’s mother constantly reminds her that youth is only temporary, she encourages eating behaviours not unlike those of anorexia and actively discourages Veronica from studying as this “doesn’t look good to the boys”. This lends Veronica to have insecurities, not unlike those that Sierra experiences herself, just in a different way. This leads to a heartwarming and unexpected friendship where the girls learn to depend on each other and understand each other’s scenarios without judgement.
Shannon Purser plays the role of Sierra, well known for her portrayal of Barb in the pop culture hit Stranger Things. Purser was swept into surprising fame when suddenly her character Barb became a millennial icon. Purser has clearly taken on the role of Sierra as a character not too far from the one she is already known for. This decision works in Pursers favour, as the Stranger Things audience came to crave more of Barb’s strong and independent personality. Purser, although awkward in places, certainly does an accurate job of portraying a high school underdog. Purser captures the fickleness of youth and the undeniable emotional drive that teenagers host, whilst also being undoubtedly naive enough to never consider the consequences of their spontaneous actions.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, as previously brushed upon, is a haven for teenage representation. It confidently challenges teenage stereotypes whilst also targets the troupe and clique mentality that often emerges in high school culture. Sierra Burgess Is A Loser tackles and highlights the struggles and dilemmas that arise from mob mentality, wherein students join in with bullying just to impress their peers. This behaviour does not exclude our dear Sierra; she too falls victim to the frivolous disruptions of teenage life, seeking petty revenge when she misreads a situation. Although frustrating in parts, the dramatic irony offers compelling demonstrations of “crossed wires” at its best, in turn reminding us that without context a situation is not always what it first appears, hopefully teaching us to not act too hastily when provoked.
It can’t go without being said that Sierra Burgess Is A Loser owns a warming and fondly enjoyable style. With the soundtrack and costuming echoing the fashionable aesthetics of the 80’s, the movie becomes almost nostalgic. Its retro style takes audiences back to bygone youth and encourages older audiences to once again put themselves in a teenager’s shoes. This marrying of modern situations and retro characteristic broadens Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’s audience and invites people of all ages to remember insecurities and be reminded that we all struggle with our faults and self-doubt, no matter what our scenario.
Overall, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a pretty decent reflection of the challenges that face young people in a world where phone calls are considered “olden” and emojis are the new facial expressions. With the pressures of social media and the impossible challenge of chasing an Instagram lifestyle, young people find themselves struggling with standards of ridiculous measure. One of my biggest and only problems with this movie is the surprising disregard for the real-life implications and consequences of catfishing. That being said, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is nostalgic, modern, funny and poignant, an entertaining film that carries many valuable lessons.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.