The Netflix original “Tall Girl” accumulated significant backlash since its debut in mid-September. It deserved it.
The film follows six foot one – and a half – tall Jodi Kreyman (Ava Michelle) who struggles to fit in as a tall girl in high school. Her shorter friend Jack Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck) openly expresses his love for her, but she rejects him, claiming she will never find love because it would be too “weird” to date a short guy like him (and apparently boys over 6 feet don’t exist at her school). Out of nowhere, hot, tall, Swedish exchange student Stig Mohlin (Luke Eisner) arrives, and she begins to fall head over heels, consequently landing in a very awkward love triangle.
Throughout the film, she complains about how much she struggles, but at the end of the day, there really isn’t much adversity in her life. As many online critics pointed out, what could be so bad about living as a beautiful, smart, white girl in a clearly affluent neighborhood? Her family evidently doesn’t struggle with money; her sister is a beauty pageant queen, for heaven’s sake.
On top of that, the film was incredibly predictable. Within the first 10 or so minutes, the viewer has an idea of how the entire plot will play out. Though, I do admit, it should be understood that this is what you get for watching a teen “rom-com.”
Circulating as a meme around social platforms such as TikTok, critics are caught up with one line in particular: the infamous “You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes, men’s size 13 Nikes. Beat that.” This line perfectly exemplifies the film’s warped perception of what adversity means. Since when did having large feet (usually proportional to one’s height) become grounds to dismiss other, less superficial problems?
I will admit, movies have gotten increasingly accepting and realistic about the struggles that people face and the situations they might find themselves in because, after all, actors are often supposed to portray real people, especially in this style of film. The issue with this film is that, although she has the right to complain about being tall (bullying someone for their height is a real thing, which star Ava Michelle admitted she has dealt with throughout her childhood), it was dealt with in an extraordinarily shallow way.
She has all the advantages. She’s white, beautiful, from an affluent neighborhood, and has a relatively stable family life. Taking all these things into account, being occasionally teased for being tall seems somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of adversity.
It should be noted, however, that the film’s director was a woman of color, something that, in the film industry, is depressingly uncommon and shouldn’t go unnoticed. But on camera, there are greater problems that could have been focused on, maybe even worldwide issues, and I consider that a missed opportunity on the director’s part, considering how privileged she is relative to most of the world. I want to see a teen rom-com show characters who speak out against racism, or combat climate change while being surrounded by deniers.
For Tall Girl, I give the film a generous six out of ten.