Directed by: #NzinghaStewart
Written by: #SamWolfson
Netflix's Tall Girl centres Jodi (Ava Michelle), a high school junior uncomfortable in her own skin as she towers above her peers at 6ft 1 1/2. Nzingha Stewart's rom-com is a genuine testament to body positivity but falls short in its execution.
"You think your life is hard? I'm a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes."
Jodi's narration pangs of privilege, and while pain is both subjective and relative, Tall Girl treats Jodi's height as if it was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a high schooler. Both the film's introduction and tone insinuates that Jodi has grasped the ultimate short straw, leaving her at a disadvantage to the rest of her peers. Jodi's mom (Angela Kinsey) preaches "you just have to be strong in the face of adversity." It's almost enough to make you laugh.
Jodi's discomfort with her body echoes to almost anyone who's been a teenager. When Stig (Luke Eisner), a foreign exchange student from Sweden arrives at her high school, Jodi thinks she's found someone who understands her. There's just one problem; the popular girls are pursuing Stig, and 'tall girl' Jodi doesn't stand a chance. Clara Wilsey plays Kimmy, a Regina George wannabe who's responsible for tormenting Jodi since preschool. There's never an attempt of an explanation for Kimmy's harsh nature, with no theories, such as personal insecurities, to explain away her bullying. Stig begins dating Kimmy as a means to be accepted as a 'popular kid', despite his inexplainable feelings for Jodi.
There's no apparent chemistry between Stig and Jodi, with the romantic build-up consisting of one High School Musical-esque piano session together. Throughout the film, Jodi's personality isn't explored and developed, magnifying height as her only characteristic. Another distraction within the movie is that it's difficult for viewers to feel sincere sympathy for Jodi. It proves a challenge to take her suggested 'oppression' seriously as when you strip the movie down, Jodi is a 6'1" blonde white girl living in a mansion with a family that cares for her.
The much-needed characterisation of Ava Michelle's role is partly owed to the poor dialogue and scripting, with a story that throws away so much potential seen within the cast. Fareeda (Anjelika Washington), Jodi's supportive best friend, is a scene-stealer and charms audiences with her bubbly persona. Still, the audience is never invited to learn more about her, leaving an anticlimactic apprehension whenever Freeda goes out of shot.
The love triangle between Jodi, Stig and Dunkleman, Jodi's childhood friend and not so secret admirer, reminds me of John Hughes's Pretty in Pink. Dunkleman and Pretty in Pink's Duckie are both characters who don't understand when to take a hint. The narrative that if a boy is in love with a girl, then that girl should give him a chance and love him back, is a tired and outdated take: a take that needs to be banished from future teen flicks.
Offering very little in the way of romance or comedy, Tall Girl misses a trick with its lazy yet somewhat insulting storytelling. The most relatable line comes from a childhood flashback scene, where a young Jodi playing the keyboard declares "and that's why I want to be just like Taylor Swift when I grow up". Swift's hit song 'Fifteen' resonates more than the 102 minutes I endured watching Netflix's leftovers.