Review: Tall Girl

Recently, Netflix has found an audience with fans of teen rom-coms, coming out with a slew of new releases in the past year that have been relatively hit-or-miss. Other than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (which was, obviously, amazing), Netflix rom-coms haven’t exactly received the best reviews, which is why, for the most part, I steered clear of them. However, seeing all of the buzz surrounding Netflix’s latest release Tall Girl piqued my curiosity, so I decided to check it out.

Tall Girl stars Jodi (Ava Michelle), who at 6’1, is the tallest girl in her high school. She’s been tall since childhood, a source of consternation to her father (Richie Kreyman), who is worried that she has a medical condition. This, along with the fact that she has always been bullied about her height — especially by Kimmy (Clara Wilsey), the stereotypical popular mean girl, and her friend Schnipper (Rico Paris) — has made her very insecure about her appearance. Jodi’s best friends are Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) and Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck). Dunkleman is in love with her, but she continually rejects him, not wanting to date someone who is shorter than her and someone she has known for so long. But Jodi’s love life changes when Stig (Luke Eisner), a Swedish foreign exchange student (who is taller than her) joins her class. Although Stig ends up dating Kimmy, he eventually develops feelings for Jodi — but is unwilling to let go of the popularity status that comes with dating Kimmy. In the end, Jodi realizes that she really loves Dunkleman and comes to terms with her height.

The idea behind Tall Girl was certainly unique; it’s a perspective not frequently explored in the media. Being 5’3, it was really interesting to see the world from a tall girl’s perspective, because this was something I had never really thought of before. However, there were some fundamental errors behind the whole premise of the movie. To start, 6’1 is tall, but it’s not unreasonably tall, which the movie portrayed it to be, taking away some of the believability. To exaggerate this height, the movie just cast a lot of shorter actors so that Ava Michelle was much taller relative to her peers — but anyone who has been to high school knows that many guys are taller than 6’1, which is why it didn’t make any sense that Jodi was taller than everyone in her high school by at least a few inches. Given the disparity of height between her and her peers, Jodi’s insecurities are perfectly understandable — but lines such as “you think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes” don’t particularly elicit much sympathy for her, given that Jodi is an attractive, white, straight woman from a loving middle-class family.

That brings me to the characters. I didn’t find Jodi a particularly compelling lead, because her entire character was centered around the fact that she was tall, and she spent most of her time reminding viewers of this, so that didn’t leave room for much else. The writers made a halfhearted attempt to add more to her character by sprinkling in the fact that she’s good at the piano, but this idea was so barely developed that I couldn't find a reason to care about it. But at least she was more interesting than her primary love interest Stig, a completely cardboard character with no personality whose only redeeming features were that he was attractive, liked musicals, and, oh, he was attractive. The best parts of this movie honestly came from the secondary characters: Harper (Sabrina Carpenter), Jodi’s hilarious, caring older sister; Fareeda, the charismatic and endlessly supportive best friend; and Dunkleman, charming and adorable. But as these characters’ roles were primarily to provide moral support to Jodi, their full potential was far from realized.

One of the main issues surrounding characters was that very few of the relationships were well-developed. In the end, I didn’t really care whether after their fight, Fareeda and Jodi would make up again, because I barely knew anything about their friendship to begin with. And Harper’s worry about Jodi never asking her for help didn’t make much sense to me because I had no idea of what their relationship had been like before the movie began. 

In turn, this weak character development lead to some chinks in the armor, plot-wise. The movie’s main message preaches self-love— but Jodi didn’t really sell it. Her newfound confidence seemed rushed, more like the flick of a switch rather than a proper progression. This is what happened with the romantic side of things too. The movie clearly intended for Jodi and Dunkleman to get together — but to do this, the writers suddenly decided to make Stig, a pretty chill guy, into a jerk at the last minute — so that at the end of the movie, when he apologizes for his behavior, Jodi can refuse to be with him and pursue her apparent feelings for Dunkelman instead. This was particularly sudden and confusing, because she spent a majority of the movie rejecting his attempts to flirt with her, and there had been absolutely no indication of her ever developing feelings for him — until we are told in the last five minutes that actually, she did. 

With a little more character development and proper pacing, Tall Girl could have been a much better-done movie. But if you’re in the mood for a (very) predictable rom-com and a fun and lighthearted watch, it’s a good choice: and in the end, I did enjoy it. However, is it a good movie? Not especially.