Tall Girl: A Towering Disappointment

Tall Girl: A Towering Disappointment

Following Netflix hits such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, and Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Tall Girl had some big shoes to fill. This film is the newest addition to the cookie cutter teen-romance-drama films that Netflix loves to produce so very much. This time, the story was built around a – you guessed it – tall girl. Somehow, with a topic that has yet to be widely explored in the world of film coupled with a generally charismatic cast, this movie fell 73 inches short of my expectations. Tall Girl, directed by Nzingha Stewart, undermines its central themes through poorly written plot points and unsatisfying character development, ultimately disappointing viewers and critics alike. With a meager 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 5.5/10 on IMDb, Tall Girl left its viewers disenchanted and frustrated.

Tall Girl follows a high school student named Jodi played by Ava Michelle. Her daily life consists of relentless teasing and loneliness due to her above-average height. At six-foot-one, Jodi has struggled with her self-esteem for most of her life, and, despite someone of average height being openly in love with her for years, she dreams of meeting the perfect “taller-than-her” guy. Soon enough, her dream boy waltzes in and immediately becomes the center of her universe for the rest of the movie. Her pageant queen sister Harper, played by Sabrina Carpenter, gives her the makeover of a lifetime, and with her newfound confidence, and some luck, she finally gets his attention. Now a part of a love triangle consisting of her crush, Stig Mohlen, herself, and her childhood bully, Kimmy Stitcher, she goes on a journey of self-discovery as she desperately tries to win over the boy of her dreams. 

Despite the many issues I had with this film, there were a few redeeming qualities. For instance, the opening of the film is promising with a well composed introduction sequence set to a catchy track that introduces our protagonist. Immediately we can see Casting Director Barbara J. McCarthy’s talents at work. Ava Michelle brings Jodi to life both physically and emotionally. Michelle has a way of showcasing Jodi’s insecurities in a way that feels real. She gives her all in this film and makes the most of the script she was given. This holds true to many other members of the cast such as Griffin Gluck as Jack Dunkleman, Jodi’s childhood friend and not-so-secret admirer, and Paris Berelc as Liz, Dunkleman’s secondary love interest, to name a few.

Despite having some real gems in the cast, Tall Girl fails to deliver when it comes to the writing. For a movie built on themes of self-love and confidence, it has a way of undermining and contradicting these messages time after time throughout the course of the film. By claiming to be a feel-good movie about a girl coming to love herself and overcoming adversity, this movie got my hopes up. I was greatly disappointed when I realized that most of the movie is centered around Jodi’s hunt for validation from a boy. The story teases you with the idea of her gaining the confidence she needs to become the independent woman that we all want to see her become but dashes these hopes when she literally ends up in the arms of a boy who betrayed her trust multiple times. In one instance, Jodi is presented with a moral crossroads: repair her relationship with her best friend or go after the boy that has already proved himself unreliable and unappreciative of her true worth. Unfortunately, she goes after the boy. The worst part is that she does not even hesitate. This reveals a lot about what Jodi truly values, and it just comes back to bite her as her heart gets broken yet again. 

Beyond the infuriating level of contradictions and disappointing turns within the story, the plot is also riddled with tropes and direct rip-offs from several superior movies including High School Musical and Mean Girls. Other than practically stealing scenes directly from these films, Tall Girl depicted cliche ideas that have been reused tirelessly in stories directed at teenage girls for many years. These tropes are what teach us that beauty is synonymous with popularity and happiness, that getting a boyfriend will make you happy, and that the only way to prove your worth to a guy is through a makeover and a kiss. If this is what Netflix, and other streaming platforms, thinks high school students should watch, and this is what they advertise, then these toxic messages will only be further ingrained into our culture.

Movies like this, regardless of claims that they support self-love and confidence, are a huge part of why self deprecation and insecurity plague our generation. These qualities spread from our screens to our halls to our hearts. Tall Girl is a huge disappointment for many reasons. Not only is the plot bland, predictable, and overdone, it is toxic. Film is a fantastic medium to get messages across because it can be incredibly immersive in a relatively short amount of time. This can both be a virtue and a vice because movies can be so incredibly influential, especially on an adolescent mind. When used to relay positive and healthy themes, someone can walk away from a film a better person, even if the effect is slight, but messages like the ones woven into the plot of Tall Girl leave an impact on the audience that is, simply put, damaging.