Over the past year, Netflix has been releasing a number of original teen romantic comedies that have helped drive the already successful streaming service even further into cementing its place as one of the country’s favorite services to binge-watch content on.
“Tall Girl” tells the story of high school junior Jodi Kreyman, who stands at just over 6 feet, 1 inch tall, and towers above the rest of her classmates. She’s mocked relentlessly by most of her peers, except for her two best friends. When a foreign exchange student from Sweden, Stig, begins attending her school, Jodi falls head over heels for the only boy she’s ever met who’s taller than her. The movie follows Jodi as she attempts to pursue what seems to be her only romantic option.
The actual acting in the film isn’t terrible, rather, it’s the script that makes the movie less than easy to enjoy. The movie seemed unnecessarily long and drawn-out, to the point where the 101 minute run-time felt more like 3 hours. The plot slowly progresses through what seems like meaningless storylines that don’t add any substance to the characters or story. The students endlessly torment Jodi for her height. Right from the beginning, the bullying is overdone and too cruel, to the point where it feels forced and unrealistic. Yes, Jodi is extremely tall for her age, but in a time where models like Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss and Gigi Hadid also tower above their peers, Jodi’s height should make her more popular, not less.
“Tall Girl” plays on many typical tropes found in teen rom-coms, including the main character being bullied for something completely out of her control, i.e. her height. Her best friend, Dunkleman, is in love with her, and true to the trope, that love is unrequited. A new student transfers in and becomes Jodi’s love interest, prompting a make-over montage courtesy of Jodi’s older sister and mother. There’s the big party scene which contains a major plot point to drive the story to it’s endgame, and the dance speech, where the main character gives an inspiring speech about accepting yourself and not letting anyone tear you down, a la “Mean Girls.”
The cast isn’t star-studded, but it does have some familiar faces that the film’s target audience would recognize. Sabrina Carpenter, of “Girl Meets World,” and Angela Kinsey of “The Office” play Jodi’s older sister Harper and mother Helaine, respectively.
Ava Michelle, who plays Jodi, used to be a dancer and was featured on “Dance Moms” as a member of the Abby Lee Dance Company competitive team. Michelle was released from the team in the show’s fourth season for being too tall, an advantage that would eventually help her land her role in “Tall Girl.” Surprisingly, the film doesn’t feature one of the most popular actors to come out of Netflix’s teen movies, Noah Centineo. This switch-up in casting is a nice change, as the actor seems to have been cast in nearly every movie released by the streaming company within the past year.
The film has received criticism for the ostracization of Jodi based on her height. Obviously, Jodi is taller than almost all of her classmates, but she’s white, cisexual, conventionally pretty, straight and upper middle class. Many critics of the film spoke about how the struggles of being tall didn’t seem to be enough to create a whole film about it. Critics asked why a movie made about the struggles of a tall white girl was made over the struggles of minorities within the U.S. that deserve the representation more.
The film’s director, Nzingha Stewart, addressed critics and defended the film’s overall message. “But the movie’s not really a movie about being bullied for being tall. It’s about having an insecurity and having to get over it and learn that the thing you’re ashamed of is the thing that makes you special,” Stewart said in an interview with Refinery 29. She went on to explain that, as a black woman, she understands that sometimes the story doesn’t have to be about you.
Overall, the film was long and a little ridiculous, but it did provide a beautiful message to its viewers; in life, we have two choices; stay low, or stand tall.