For those familiar with the tale Cyrano de Bergerac, they may recognize some distinctly similar connections in Ian Samuels’ Sierra Burgess is a Loser — and they are right. Although the death toll is not as high (What kind of a modern romance movie would have so many deaths? What do you think this is, Shakespeare?), the film explores a similar struggle of self-confidence.
A recent Netflix release, the movie also works to capture the experience of being a “loser” in high school. In the beginning, the story appeared to follow the typical “unpopular girl meets jock, falls in love with jock, and gets with jock in spite of the popular girl” plot. However, the film took its own path by recognizing the true power of beauty that lies within and the importance of forming unlikely friendships.
Sierra, played by Shannon Purser, does a good job capturing the confident, clever and witty teen who’s working to live up to the same quality of her parents’ achievements. On top of that, she also lives as a “loser” and “band nerd” at high school. In my opinion, as a band nerd, having Sierra be in choir or drama would have gotten the point across exceptionally better. While she appears to have courage and audacity at times, she also believes that she’s not the most beautiful girl on the outside. This prevents Sierra from revealing the truth to Jamey (Noah Centineo), who accidentally forms a relationship with her thinking she is Veronica (Kristine Froseth), the resident popular girl.
As the texts and phone calls turn into Skyping and going on a date, Sierra approaches Veronica to help keep up the appearance that Jamey has been texting Veronica all along. In return, Sierra helps teach Veronica philosophy so she can sound more intelligent to her college ex-boyfriend. During the process, Sierra and Veronica learn of each other’s inner beauty and end up forming a strong bond that endures the test of time.
Through all of this, Sierra’s friend Dan (RJ Cyler) remains loyal yet honest. Cyler’s flair and own personality shine through as Dan’s good humor and support of Sierra are a stable thread woven throughout the piece. While Sierra’s world changes, Dan remains her rock and pushes her to overcome the fear of being comfortable with herself, both inside and out. Every scene containing Cyler elevated the moments captured and added pizzazz. This also occurs during more serious scenes, in which screenwriter Lindsey Beer cleverly and wittily showcases Cyler telling Sierra the truth. Along the same lines, Samuels is able to portray Beer’s own connection to Sierra through the script. Beer, a fellow band nerd, would be the only one to write a music rehearsal like that; no one else would know to always stop and yell during a fight song.
With dark and serious cinematography and camera shots that put you in the moment, Samuels developed a film that is a level up from the other low budget and poorly executed high school films, excluding of course the John Hughes films. It is definitely worth the watch.