‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ fails to stand out

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 - 1:03pm

Shannon Purser in 'Sierra Burgess'

Shannon Purser in 'Sierra Burgess' Buy this photo
Netflix

Coming only a few weeks after the Netflix book-to-film teen romcom “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” took the internet by storm, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” attempts to cash in on that craze, but stumbles at times along the way. The film is a retelling of classic French play “Cyrano de Bergerec,” but unlike some similarly-themed teen reimaginings of classic works — like “She’s the Man” — “Sierra Burgess” fails to leave a mark of its own. It features a cast that seems perfectly curated to draw in the desired audience, with Shannon Purser (of save Barb from “Stranger Things” fame) and Noah Centineo (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”) having the majority of the screen time. However, unlike the other teen soaps from which these stars were born, “Burgess” is about as uninspired and trite as it gets. 

Helmed by first-time feature director Ian Samuels and penned by Lindsey Beer, who has no other credits to her name, the film stumbles from one contrived plot point to another, making a fairly simple story about mistaken identity into a convoluted mess of relationships and drama, with some highly questionable storytelling decisions made along the way. The core story follows the not classically “high-school pretty” Sierra as she attempts to gain the affections of the stereotypical nice-guy football player Jeremy, by pretending that she is the uber popular Veronica (Kristine Forseth). For the majority of the runtime, Jeremy believes he is texting Veronica when he is actually texting Sierra. The film treats this as a win for Sierra, and when Veronica eventually becomes involved in plots that include tricking Jeremy into kissing Sierra while his eyes are closed and having fake Skype calls with him in which Veronica is speaking for Sierra, it becomes clear the filmmakers haven’t thought through the ramifications of the story they are telling. It’s questionable if it’s a violation of Jeremy’s autonomy to make him think he’s kissing one girl when really he’s kissing another, but the level of deception inherent in the entire relationship between him and Sierra makes it hard to believe he would be able to re-accept her when she has spent the entirety of their relationship lying to him. On top of that, the light-hearted morality of “people are more than they appear” is hardly one that is original to this film and has been done better in many other high school rom-coms, most obviously “To All the Boys,” which was released less than a month ago. 

With “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” it’s clear that Netflix has adopted an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mentality when it comes to their original release slate. For a traditional studio, releasing both this film and “To All the Boys” in such a similar time frame would be ludicrous. For Netflix, so long as one of them succeeds, crashing the market with this kind of low budget low risk fair is a no brainer. Netflix has released almost a half dozen romantic comedies just this summer alone, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. Between high profile, high concept releases like David Ayer’s “Bright” and the continued to development of their original series like “Orange is the New Black” and the potentially bizarre final season of “House of Cards,” Netflix seems to have but one goal when it comes to their original output: release as much as possible. Quality be damned. Endless output be rewarded. A new original movie every single week, even if this week’s is just a pale imitation of the last.