From an early age, we’ve been conditioned to see height not just as a genetic marker, but as a quality of identity. Growing up, we tracked our maturation with pencil marks on closet walls, in middle school we lined up in height order and beamed with pride upon reaching five feet and now as adults we still gossip over physical stature. Impossible to miss, height is naturally a feature considered in our first impressions of one another. While the intention behind Netflix’s latest release, “Tall Girl,” is more to offer a light-hearted romantic comedy than to make a commentary on society’s fixation with height, the film is deeper than it appears, provoking audiences to recall the value in embracing their own skin and standing tall.
Jodi (Ava Michelle, “The Bold and the Beautiful”) is 6 foot 1 inch, a trait no one ever lets her forget. Despite support from her family and quirky best friend Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck, “Why Him?”), who is openly head over heels for Jodi, her insecurities weigh heavy. For Jodi, height is a curse, a bewitchment that singles her out and, even worse, makes the prospect of finding a dateable guy nearly impossible. Her luck seems to change however, when an uber tall, dreamboat foreign exchange student named Stig materializes out of the blue. Stig appears to be everything that Jodi has been longing for and more, but whether he is actually what she needs is another question entirely.
As the title suggests, the film’s plot is relatively simplistic, illustrating the trials and tribulations of a girl struggling to fit in. However, through a balance of B-grade jokes and silly supporting characters, the film holds audience attention. Given that there aren’t many exciting twists and turns, both Dunkleman and Jodi’s sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter, “Horns”), a slightly air-headed pageant girl, help pump the life blood to the movie. The two characters function as Jodi’s support network in different ways, and each has an eccentricity that skirts the line between entertaining and annoying.
Despite its lack of mystery, “Tall Girl” does pull viewers in through the shared experience of being an “other.” Jodi’s tall stature is an obvious characteristic that sets her apart from the bunch. But other characters in the film are “weird” in less evident ways. Dunkleman for instance, carries around a crate of books instead of using a backpack. And Harper is the latest of late bloomer, still struggling to close the yearbook and move on from her pageant days. The point that director Nzingha Stewart aims to make is that we all have elements, on a varying spectrum of visibility, that make us outliers. As cheesy and overemphasized as this message is, for some odd reason, we don’t mind hearing it just one more time.
“Tall Girl” embodies the phrase “‘what you see is what you get.’” There are no major shockers, and no defining moments, but there is development. Though not necessarily innovative or fresh, Jodi’s story is representative of the journey of self-acceptance that each and every person goes through. We might not all have been the “tall girl” in high school, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all have our own awkward oddities that we’ve had to learn to grow into. The ultimate goal of “Tall Girl” is not to leave viewers wide-eyed and mindblown, but rather to crack a few smiles and warm a few hearts.