Opinion: Tall Girl fails to live up to its height


Katie Cherven '20, Copy Editor

“You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes. Mens’ size 13 Nikes. Beat that.”

These are perhaps the most quotable lines from this fall’s newest Netflix Original teen rom-com. But does the humorous, almost-iconic ring of these lines represent the quality of the full movie? This reviewer thinks not.

Jodi Freyman is 6’1, the tallest girl in her school, a welcome, if slight, twist on the short, Caucasian, pretty-but-nerdy ingenue protagonist often at the center of teen-focused romantic comedies. It only took until the first handful of scenes for me to recognize numerous faults, beginning with the entrance of a decked-out list of high school movie stereotypes and a hint of faux representation. We meet Jodi’s best friend, Freeda, an unfortunate cliche of a sassy black sidekick with nearly zero character development or backstory but a single piece of dialogue about her family dynamic. And of course, what would a movie like this be without the wince-ingly overplayed and one-dimensional high school mean girl and queen bee, Kimmy Stitcher, who fails to display even a single positive quality. Last but not least, the short boy, Jack Dunkleman, with an overly-devoted and, frankly, off-putting long-term crush on our main character.

As in many movies of its genre, “Tall Girl” uses her family, in this case, mother, father and sister, as quirky and humorous devices, and ensures that every family member could be removed from the script without affecting the plot.

Where the movie breaks from predictability is no more exciting: the introduction of a personality-less, tall, blonde, handsome exchange student, Stig Mohlin, who also fails to reach three dimensions. Noticing a trend?

Naturally, Jodi falls for the only boy her age she’s met who is taller than her, but alas, he’s dating Kimmy.  Antics ensue, often immorally and immaturely, and at the end of the day Stig transforms into a complete jerk (for little to no reason), while Dunkleman saves the day by fighting for Jodi’s honor at a houseparty, causing Jodi to instantly fall in love with him. This is the same Dunkleman who has sexually harassed her for much of her life, every day battering her with pick-up lines, which she firmly denies each time, watched her sleep in her bedroom in the wee hours of the weekend, and deliberately sabotaged any inkling of other romantic relationships she chose to pursue. But he carried around a milkcrate every day so that when the time came, he could finally kiss her– adorable!

Though this movie’s goal may not have been so, “Tall Girl” did not have me closing my Netflix tab feeling better about myself. In fact, it made me feel worse about the false realities we choose to immerse ourselves in. I’m pro-positivity in entertainment’s messaging, but I live at a point where I don’t automatically feel pity for the girl wearing the size 13 Mens’ Nikes or the boy so desperately possessive of her, and instead I choose to take pity on those so poorly represented in this film: the characters who are barred from reaching even the threshold of their potential– on screen and off.