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Monday, Jan 24, 2022

Review: Tall Girl is a cliché and eye-rolling experience

Recently, rom-com movies have revitalized the genre with films like “Love, Simon” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” “Tall Girl” is not one of these movies. 

Directed by Nzingha Stewart and starring Ava Michelle, Luke Eisner, Griffin Gluck, Anjelika Washington and Sabrina Carpenter, the film follows a 6’1” high school student, Jodi Kreyman, as she navigates life with Swedish transfer student Stig, childhood friend Dunkleman and archrival Kimmy Stitcher. The story follows her burgeoning feelings about boys, her height and her struggle with self-acceptance.

Unfortunately for viewers and for “Tall Girl,” the story conveyed is hardly a new one. Too many teenage romantic comedies feature an outcast girl who falls in love with the new student, deals with the antagonistic popular girl and has a childhood friend who is in love with her. “Tall Girl” follows the formula to the letter, complete with make-overs, petty third-act conflict and a big social event at the end of the film.

Following this mainstream theme, the characters are all the typical rom-com archetypes with the standard development — or lack thereof. Jodi, our heroine, is an insecure teenage girl who can never stand up for herself. Dunkleman is the childhood friend who has a crush on Jodi and the inability to accept no for an answer. Fareeda is the eccentric, outgoing best friend who at one point lampshades the lack of attention she receives in the film with rhetorical requests. Stig is the gorgeous and kind-hearted new exchange student, and Kimmy reigns as the cruel queen bee of their high school. The only difference in the formula is Jodi’s older pageant queen sister, who contrasts Jodi’s shy and introverted nature.

While some of the character development makes sense, such as Jodi’s standard journey of self-acceptance, other characters’ personalities change only to move the plot forward. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and are difficult to root for or against. Fareeda, Harper and Harper’s parents are probably the most interesting characters, diverging from the predictability of the other characters. Unfortunately, they also receive far less screen time than the less interesting characters like Jodi, Dunkleman, Stig and Kimmy.

Ironically enough, “Tall Girl” accidentally calls out one of its biggest flaws: the intended lesson of overcoming adversity. Early in the film, Jodi’s mother tries to reassure Jodi by explaining how she, too, experienced “adversity” in high school, due to being so beautiful that all of the other girls hated her while she had to continuously reject suitors. The movie portrays an unrealistic and problematic message that Jodi being teased for her height is similar to racial, social and gender oppression.

The irony comes from the fact that the movie constantly tries to portray Jodi — a middle class, conventionally attractive white girl who lives in a very large home — as being the most victimized person in school. Along with the juvenile “bullying” that the film shows, which in and of itself is not worth nearly as much notoriety as it receives, it’s hard to really pity Jodi for her pain. The absurd nature of painting a 6-foot-1 girl as a “freak” distracts from the movie’s attempts to tell a story about how people should celebrate their differences.

Ultimately, the biggest flaw for “Tall Girl” is the timing of its release; I expected better stories and representation considering other romantic comedies currently in the market. The film is far from unredeemable; it’s just an average teen rom-com that you could pull out of the '90s. With a mundane plot, cliche characters and a clumsy message, “Tall Girl’s” biggest problem is simply that it is average.


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