I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, despite the widespread pre-release criticism. Even at their worst, I usually manage to find the good in rom-coms targeted at teenage girls – we’ve all been there, and I like to think that the current set of 13 year olds are getting some decent movies. But sadly, Tall Girl was everything the brutally mocked trailer suggested it would be: incompetently made, entirely unrelatable, and, at its worst, actively harmful.
As many of you likely already know from Twitter memes, Tall Girl tells the story of Jodi, whose entire personality boils down to being ‘the Tall Girl’. She wants a tall boyfriend to look shorter in comparison, hopefully alleviating bullying from people like her classmate Kimmy, to the chagrin of her short best friend Jack who has been nursing a crush on her for years. Just as he’s ready to make a move, new kid Stig arrives on the scene, a handsome, towering Swedish exchange student who also falls for Jodi. This set up could be worse – I have nothing against the film’s exploration of body image and insecurities, but the fixation Tall Girl has on this love triangle is to its detriment.
If the characters were especially well written or acted, I could forgive the less than stellar setup, yet Tall Girl never makes much of an attempt at giving these roles any depth. Newcomer Ava Michelle is fine as Jodi, but rarely manages to communicate her inner turmoil beyond reading off the dull script. Luke Eisner as Stig is basically just eye candy, and once again does a decent job. The two worst offenders in this film are Griffin Gluck as Jack, who comes off as far more creepy than was likely intended, and Sabrina Carpenter as Jodi’s pageant winner sister, who decided for some bizarre reason to shout most of her lines; this is funny at first, but wears thin fast.
To make matters worse, the film has some glaring technical flaws and visual misfires that take you entirely out of the experience. In the opening, the bookcases behind Jodi and an unnamed boy are vibrantly monotone, a strangely distracting attempt to create the twee indie feel popularised by movies like The Fault In Our Stars – it even uses a similar font in the opening titles. Random stock footage of New Orleans – the setting of the movie – is rolled out in scene transitions, but rarely has any bearing on any of the film, which could really have taken place anywhere. Even the shot to shot editing is awkward and poorly executed, with pauses after sentences in conversations often lasting a beat longer than they really should.
The problems of teenage girls are so often dismissed as silly or insignificant that I genuinely thought Tall Girl might have a point to make about the nuances and double standards placed onto young women regarding their looks. This film didn’t just underwhelm me – it actively disappointed me.