It’s not that taking a modern-day trend or social media issue and using it as a way to update a centuries-old French play is unheard of. I’m just not used to seeing one quite as fitting as Sierra Burgess Is A Loser. Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play Cyrano de Bergerac, while famous, is not nearly as popular or even really adapted that much for the cinema as it’s fame might suggest.
Still, with a script by Lindsey Beer, giving the whole story a unique and much-needed woman’s perspective, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser shows a great deal of promise. Shannon Purser (BARB!) plays the titular Sierra, who is your average teenager. Which is to say she’s a teenager and it sucks. Because it does. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you something.
Eschewing the incest subplot, Beer has seemingly replaced it with a much more up to date modern replacement, catfishing. From the trailers, it appears the catfishing is accidental. Sierra is randomly texted by a cute guy, Jamey, played by Noah Centineo. It’s not until later that she begins to wonder if he really knows who he’s talking to. When Jamey calls Sierra “Veronica” and shows her a pic of the popular cheerleader, Sierra realizes her suspicions were right.
Beer appears more interested in the relationship between Sierra and the popular cheerleader Veronica played by Kristine Froseth than Sierra and Jamey. Rostand’s story is about men and putting women on a pedestal. Women must learn to love men even though they may have large noses. Appearances don’t matter. Except in high school, they do. What Beer seems to be focusing on though, is not how appearances affect romantic interactions, but how society can use appearances to help women tear down other women.
To use the parlance of our times “patriarchal bullshit.” Beer looks to be subverting the classic trope of romantic misunderstanding less to explore the fragility of the male ego and more to explore the different social hurdles women must maneuver in order to survive high school or even exist on social media.
I could be reading too much into it, it’s a trailer after all. Trailers are designed to sell you the movie studios want you to see. But with Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, I think I see a potentially thoughtful and intriguing story about women relating to other women. Which is nice, well, more than nice. It’s pretty awesome.